The new year brings both a time of renewed energy and reflection on its storied Lehigh Valley history as family owned and operated Banko Beverage Co. celebrates its 90th anniversary this year.
The company, which began as a soda distributor, expanded into the beer business after Prohibition was repealed in 1933. It started with Schaeffer and began adding other notable brands to its roster.
General Manager Rob Gontkosky recalled that founder Frank Banko Sr. and Frank Banko Jr., respectfully referred to as Mr. B., picked up many suppliers along the way, including Miller, Yuengling, Molson, Pabst, Heineken, Guinness and Stella, to name a few. While the biggest additions to the portfolio included Miller Lite in 1975 and the boom of Genesee Ale in the late 1970s, Banko Beverage was poised to grow exponentially.
Today, Banko, which partners with more than 30 breweries, is one of the largest and oldest beer wholesalers in Pennsylvania. The company has recently grown once again to become a full-beverage enterprise.
“The industry has been steadily adapting to the changing tastes of the consumer with seltzers, ready-to-drink liquor-based canned cocktails and nonalcoholic products,” Gontkosky said. “Banko Beverage keeps adapting as well, providing a full range of products to satisfy our customer base. Our ability to adapt to future trends will keep Banko Beverage moving forward in the years to come. Our current leadership team and sales force believe in being nimble and developing a full beverage portfolio.”
With that growth came the need for a more expansive facility. In 2017, Banko Beverage created a new corporate office and a larger warehouse for its blossoming beverage distribution business, which serves 1,000 restaurants, bars and distributors in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding counties every year.
Supporting the Community
Believing that the foundation for a healthy community begins with good, secure employment, Banko has provided job opportunities to members of the community for nearly nine decades, while maintaining a family-like atmosphere within the company.
When Frank Banko Sr. passed away, his son Frank Jr. stepped up to run the business. Today, Mary Ellen Racz, Frank Jr.’s daughter, serves as Banko’s president and CEO, along with her son, Tony Gallo, as vice president.
Marketing Manager Tony Barcynski said that the company has served as an employer of choice for generations of local families. Banko has multi-generational employees throughout its divisions and warehouses.
Suppliers and customers alike can tell the Banko difference, knowing that when they call they’ll speak with someone who has the knowledge and expertise to point them in the right direction.
In addition to catering to the changing tastes of its customers, Banko Beverage is committed to giving back to the Allentown and Greater Lehigh Valley communities. If the Banko name looks familiar, changes are you’ve seen it on hospital wings and high school and collegiate athletic fields as well as the Frank Banko Alehouse Cinemas, the two-screen independent, foreign and arthouse cinemas, serving beer and wine throughout the show, located in the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks.
Speaking of the arts, the Banko family was instrumental in establishing Musikfest, a 10-day extravaganza featuring over 500 performances by local and nationally recognized musicians across 16 stages, and continues into its 40th year as the exclusive supplier of beverages for the event.
Looking ahead, Barcynski and the Banko team are eager to continue the legacy that Frank Banko Sr. began.
“We look forward to operating under the same ethos since the inception of Banko Beverage in 1933, keeping family close and providing the best possible service to all customers,” said Tony Gallo.
For more information, call 610-434-0147, or visit bankobeverage.com