The Millennials: Willie Reed continues his family’s legacy.

February 7, 2015
Willie Reed

Willie Reed

Editor’s Note: Sustaining a community and keeping it vibrant requires diversity on many levels, especially among age groups. An unintended movement the last few years has been the increased number of millennials who have taken a role in community and business leadership in Mason County. A millennial, also known as Generation Y, is defined as a person who was born in the early ‘80s and sooner. This generation grew up in the digital age and often offers a unique and fresh perspective to leadership.

This is the fourth  story in our weekly series on the area’s millennials who are making an impact in our community.

Sponsored by All Access Care of Ludington. Located at 329 N. Jebavy Dr. in Ludington; 231-425-4544;

By Kate Krieger. Senior Correspondent.

LUDINGTON – When most people think of Ludington Beverage, they usually think of beer, but to co-owner and President Willie Reed, 34, the beer is just the product which has supported his family and many other families in the community he loves so dear.

The Reed family has owned and operated Ludington Beverage for the last 83. Founded by Willie’s great-grandparents, Willie is a fourth generation who is running the majority of the business with his uncle, Budde Reed.

Willie, a 1998 Ludington High School graduate, never dreamed that he would return to his hometown after graduation. He attended Miami University, in Oxford, Ohio and received his bachelor’s degree in marketing. He married his wife, Stephanie (Houk), also a Ludington native, 12 years ago. The couple has three children: Rachel, 10, Ty, 8, and Austin, 6. After graduating from college, Willie accepted a job with PepsiCo, working for Frito-Lay.

“We moved to West Virginia for my first job with Frito-Lay,” he says. “I did a truck route for seven months and then moved into a distribution assignment for them.”

all_access_sponsorship_100114The move to West Virginia was a short one and a year later, Willie and Stephanie moved to Akron, Ohio, where Willie continued to move up the ladder with Frito-Lay. The couple stayed in Ohio for a few years and then landed back in Michigan around Detroit, where Willie became the Frito-Lay Wal-Mart account manager.

After two years with that title, he was promoted again to become the Wal-Mart regional sales manager, where he and seven other people were in charge of all the Frito-Lay sales in Wal-Marts across the United States. Willie managed sales in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

“I loved my job at Frito-Lay,” he says. “There was a lot of moving with it. I really thought I’d stayed with it for a while.”

Being promoted yet again, Willie then moved on to being the zone sales leader in Sterling Heights, where he was in charge of overseeing several executives and 110 routes.

Spending 10 years with the business, Willie then was in the full swing of his career when an opportunity to return home came about.

His grandparents never forced either of their sons, Todd or Budde, to get into the business at Ludington Beverage, but it was something Budde wanted to do. When he started looking to slow down, he turned to his son, Ryan to see if he had any interest in taking over the family business.

“Four years ago, Budde was at the point where he was needing to figure out the future of the business,” Willie says. “He mentioned it to Ryan, looking into the future and Ryan took some time, but told him that he really loved what he was doing as a photojournalist and the business wasn’t for him.”

Ryan told his dad to go to his cousins to discuss their interest, so Budde went to Todd’s sons, Tad, Brad and Willie to ask them about the possibility of moving into the business.

“Tad has an amazing career in the military,” Willie says. “Brad and my dad have a great thing going with the gallery (Todd and Brad Reed Photography) and their books and I really loved what I was doing. But after talking to Budde, Steph and I talked it over and it was the right thing to do.”

Wanting to keep the business local and in the family as much as possible, Willie and his family moved back to Ludington and Willie got settled into a new routine with his uncle, working at the family’s business.

“We are the only local beer distributor left in town,” Willie says. “I grew up with the people who work at Ludington Beverage. They were all such great mentors to me and it was an honor and a privilege to come back.”

After the first year of learning the ropes, Budde turned over the president title to Willie.

Willie says that without having a great group of people working with him, he wouldn’t be able to do as much as he can in the community and for the community.

“The entire team really built me up,” he says. “They have a lot of knowledge and are very influential.”

Coming back after being gone for a decade, Willie says he and his family are extremely blessed to be able to live in Ludington and help support the goings-on throughout the community.

“I took a lot for granted when growing up,” he says. “Being gone for 10 years really made me see the opportunities the community had to offer. We’re blessed, not a lot of people can come back here.”

Willie serves on many state and nationwide committees and boards for Ludington Beverage and continues to volunteer locally as much as he can including serving on the Ludington and Scottville Area Chamber of Commerce board, the Manistee Chamber of Commerce board, Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital finance board, United Way of Mason County’s  “Children Achieving Their Full Potential,” the West Shore Community College Foundation board and the Spectrum Health Ludington foundation board..

“The opportunities I’ve had here have been mind blowing,” he says. “We all feel very fortunate for what my previous family members have done for us, the business and the community. I hope one day one of my kids carries on the tradition and wants to work here.”

With a great staff behind him, Willie continues to move Ludington Beverage forward as one Ludington’s oldest family owned and operated businesses.

“It’s so much more than me,” he says. “It’s the community. Mason County is pretty amazing. Our people are so great at the company. If I decided not to show up tomorrow, the business would still move forward because of the people. They have great leadership and give me good guidance. It’s all about our team, not me.”


See other Millennial stories here.


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