The Preiss Story
The 55-year Family Legacy Continues
The family settled in California, and Erich secured a post with the Thomas Import Company in Van Nuys. Given his entrepreneurial spirit and his personal interest in the German specialties market, Erich decided to set out on his own and launched the Erich Preiss Company in Los Angeles. A pioneer in the imports industry, Erich worked very hard to promote a market niche that was virtually nonexistent at the time. Continually breaking new ground, the Erich Preiss Company imported a range of products including Peter Nicolay wines, Henninger Lager, Verpoorten Liqueur, Dortmunder Actien Beer, Schinkenhäger Steinhäger Gin, and eventually acquired the importation rights for Jägermeister. As the company broadened their portfolio, sales to wholesalers advanced across the country.
Henry Preiss embarked on his journey into the importing business by joining his father’s firm in 1974. Henry started his career in the industry at the tender age of 16 as a warehouse clean up boy, went on to delivery and then explored other opportunities as well as getting a business degree at Rio Hondo College.
With a natural flair for sales and an affinity for German wines in particular, Henry tackled everything from sales and deliveries to conducting German wine seminars. Working full-time for the Erich Preiss Company, Henry proved an essential factor in their growing success. To this day people associate Erich and the Preiss name with premium wines, spirits and beer from around the world. It didn’t take long for Erich to send Henry out to meet suppliers and travel to Germany’s wine country. Henry was asked by retailers to give seminars, not something being done much in the 70’s. The seminars connected Henry directly with consumers and that helped develop the skill sets that would become the strongest trait Henry possessed, to be in touch with what people want and to teach them how to best enjoy those products.
In 1976 Erich Preiss sold his company to John Anderson, a successful Los Angeles entrepreneur, and Henry became President of the Erich Preiss Co. He ran the company for 4 years and once again Henry displayed his desire to do more and be more and left Erich Preiss Co. to form Preiss International.
Henry went on to become the Executive Vice President under John Anderson who had bought Erich Preiss’s interest in the company, and before long, like his father before him, Henry set out on his own, founding Preiss International in 1980. Preiss International took an aggressive approach to marketing premium wine and liquor. Within a period of only five years, the company reached upward of three million dollars in sales. Partner disputes grew, however, and Henry Preiss left the company in 1987, bringing that venture to an end.
During the years 1980–1987 Henry learned some difficult lessons in starting a new business and partner relationships which only furthered Henry’s knowledge and thirst for developing a successful business. What was then a difficult period of flux seems in hindsight a fortunate experience, as Henry strengthened his resolve to establish a family-run, brand-driven specialty import business of his own.
Long Run of Successes
Wine Is Fine, Inc. was founded In January 1987, and as specialty liquors were added to the premium wine portfolio, the business blossomed and Preiss Imports was born. The number of products increased dramatically, as did the mushrooming distribution network. Steve Fox came on board as National Sales Manager, directing the efforts of a divergent assemblage of Preiss Imports sales agents. With the name Preiss Imports officially in place, the company grew by leaps and bounds in the ensuing decades, both in scope of merchandise, in enthusiasm of the motivated staff and in the breadth of the extraordinary portfolio representing thirty-three suppliers from Europe and Australasia.
Henry forged strong relationships throughout the supply chain, from producer to retailer to a plethora of trade organizations.
A true pioneer in developing and strategically distributing small premium brands across the US, Henry Preiss created an iconic company in the industry. He was an impactful voice at the vanguard of the mixology movement in the 1990s, steering Preiss Imports away from its wine-centric portfolio in order to concentrate on premium liquor specialties, which uniquely placed the company at the forefront of what was to become a cocktail culture revolution.
It took forty years to fully realize the dream of one man who started a tradition by breaking one; who embarked with his family upon a significant journey from Amsterdam to the New World, ultimately creating this future for his descendants.
In 2008, Henry Preiss sold Preiss Imports to the Griffin Group, the company responsible for developing the SKYY Vodka brand. The new journey with HPS Epicurean began in 2012.
Resurrection of Preiss Imports
July 2016 marks the return of Preiss Imports. The legacy of importing specialized liqueurs began with Erich Preiss sharing his passion for the business in the 1960s. The tradition continues…