8,000+ packs of beer on the wall

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SALES ARE down, the summer doldrums are kicking in, and the single biggest beer-drinking weekend of the year is upon us.

What’s a Coors salesman to do?

Build the world’s largest beer display, of course.

That’s exactly what Rick Zinger and Ray Sefscik, a pair of energetic Coors salesmen, hope they’ve done inside Duffy’s Pop & Beer in Pleasant Hills, just outside Pittsburgh. The pair carefully stacked more than 8,000 30-packs of Coors Light, creating a 15-foot-high mountain that features a steaming locomotive riding atop wheels crafted from eight stainless steel kegs.

“We wanted people to come in and say, ‘Wow, that’s a lot of beer,’ ” said Sefscik.

As soon as I heard someone say “world’s biggest” and “beer” in the same sentence, I jumped into my car and drove 300 miles across the state to see it. Yeah, I’m a sucker for huge stacks of suds, but this is awe-inspiring: nearly a quarter-million cans (not to mention 50 pounds of fake snow, four railroad crossing signs, neons, strobes and spotlights).

Standing at the foot of this mountain, I had to agree: Wow, that’s a lot of beer.

The wow factor is so huge, even chairman of the board Pete Coors had to drop in from Golden, Colo., just to have a look.

“That was awesome,” said Zinger, after Coors signed beer cans for customers. “He told us there are some liquor stores that Coors serves that aren’t as big as this display.”

Big, bigger and biggest has always been the key to effective beer merchandising, whether it’s giant, inflatable cans or giant, inflatable breasts. The goal is to get the target audience – which is to say, guys – to drop their jaws and say, “Oh, Lord, I gotta get me some of that.”

It sounds pretty basic, but many beer distributors just don’t bother to put in the effort, said Zinger, 31, who works for Frank Fuhrer Wholesale of Pittsburgh, the nation’s second-biggest Coors wholesaler.

“Liquor sales are up and beer sales are down,” he noted. “It’s more important than ever to work hard on the retail end. If people would clean up their stores and treat beer distribution more like a retail business, they’d sell more beer.”

Instead of just stacking dirty wooden skids on the floor, Zinger said, distributors should look at how Target or, God forbid, the state liquor stores display their merchandise. “You want to sell more beer,” he said, “you’ve got to grab a broom and do some work.”

Said Sefscik: “People always say, ‘How hard is it? Everyone drinks beer.’ Well, there are pharmaceutical reps who don’t work half as hard as us. You’ve got to work hard to really sell beer.”

Over the years, Zinger has designed dozens of nifty beer displays, including a tiki hut of Zima cases and a baseball stadium of Coors Light. Once he stuck an all-terrain vehicle atop a stack of cases, a stunt that won him an actual ATV.

But those are minor league compared to the World’s Largest Beer Display. The pair originally schemed to build a replica of Pittsburgh’s skyline. But that fell through when their computerized architectural design program faltered. So they fell back to the locomotive idea, drawing on Coors’ “Love Train” theme.

It took six days for the pair – with help from four others – to build the display. It contains no fewer than 92 pallets of beer; if you stuck each can end to end, they would stretch nearly nine miles.

The reaction has been tremendous. “We’ve had a live radio spot, newspaper articles, and we were supposed to have a report on TV news, only that was the day Ben Roethlisberger got into that motorcycle wreck,” Zinger said.

Meanwhile, customers have been pouring in, snapping photographs of their kids sitting on the stack, then snatching up 30-packs at $16.99 a pop.

Zinger and Sefscik aren’t 100 percent sure this is, in fact, the world’s largest beer display, but they’ve submitted an application to the Guinness Book of World Records to authenticate their achievement. A Google search doesn’t turn up any other contenders, but I came across a 1994 report from Supermarket News about a display featuring 10,000 cases of Miller stacked in a suburban Milwaukee store.

“Hey, I know we’re definitely the largest Coors display of all time,” Zinger said. The record, though, is secondary to their original goal. “We wanted to get people in the door,” Zinger said. “That’s serving our purpose as salesmen.”

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