ROCK SPRINGS — Longtime Rock Springs resident Bob Spicer received the Rock Legend award from the Rock Springs Chamber on Commerce Friday night for his contribution to business and the community throughout his career.
Bob worked at Western Wyoming Beverages for 44 years, starting out by helping on the beer truck, and retiring in 2018 as the company’s president and CEO.
“We make the selection of the Rock Legend very arduously and are intent on identifying individuals who meet a particular qualification list. Bob Spicer is added to a wall of Legends that includes John Hay and Bud Nelson,” Rock Springs Chamber CEO Rick Lee told SweetwaterNOW. “These people are not only amazing in business and commerce but are also generous and caring.”
Bob told SweetwaterNOW he is overwhelmed to be receiving this award, and even questioned, “why me?” He said, “did I do anything extraordinary? No. My life and the things I’ve done, I’ve done because I enjoy doing it, I enjoy doing it with the community or whatever group I’m working with. I enjoy that part extensively. Winning an award, it’s nice and all, but it wasn’t the goal.” Nonetheless, he is grateful to the Chamber. “I thank the chamber. I was president of the chamber around 1996. My roots are back to there, I served on the board of directors for the chamber for five or six years.”
Lee said that the recipients of the Rock Legend award often ask that very question: why me?
“They are always humble in receiving the award and never feel that they deserve it, they don’t seek recognition but are the type of individuals who, when they enter a room are recognized and revered. Our community is better because of them, they have earned respect and have demonstrated excellence in making our community great. We are thrilled to present this award to Bob Spicer because he is ‘One of the Great Ones’,” Lee said.
From Driver to President
Before the Spicer family was involved with Western Wyoming Beverages, they worked on a sheep ranch. It wasn’t until 1970 that they got into the Pepsi business.
“My dad was a sheep rancher, and we sold the ranch in 1965,” Bob said. After working for another business and feeling unhappy in his work, Bob’s dad had an opportunity to buy into Western Wyoming Beverages in 1970.
“I started working there after school and in the summers, I became a helper on the beer truck for most of the summers,” Bob said. While Bob’s older brother learned the bottling side of the business, Bob learned the sales end. “By the time I was a junior I knew every bartender by name in Rock Springs,” he said.
Bob went to the University of Wyoming for one year before his dad convinced him that coming home and working for the business would be more productive.
“At the end of the first year my dad came down and basically said, ‘you’ll learn a lot more by the school of hard knocks than you will an education.’ So I quit college and came home and started driving trucks,” he said.
Just a little over a year later, Bob was in New Orleans when his dad offered him a position to take over operations at a warehouse in Jackson. The sub-distributor they had in Jackson wasn’t doing the best job, so Bob’s dad bought a warehouse. The sub-distributor could see the writing on the wall and said that the Pepsi operations would be all theirs starting Monday morning.
“I flew home from New Orleans, I pulled a load on Saturday, pulled a load on Sunday, and I was the Pepsi guy in Jackson on Monday,” he said.
Bob stayed in Jackson for about four years, where he learned the importance of being able to be rejected and keeping coming back.
“At that time Jackson was a very close-knit small town. And when you attack one of the locals in a close-knit small town, you are the devil. So I learned how to be the devil,” he said. Bob was kicked out of nearly every place as he tried to do business with them. “Through that I really learned the idea of being humble and being able to get kicked out of places and not be upset about it.”
While the first couple years in Jackson were tough, by the time he left the company was on an upswing. “We were selling quite a bit more than when I took it over. The deal of providing good service, and being on time started to pay off,” he said.
When he moved back to Rock Springs, Bob’s dad and his business partner weren’t seeing eye to eye. Bob bought the business partner’s stock and soon became the guy who made the the fountain syrup, did the service calls on equipment, and started managing truck routes.
“As the booms came and went, it was a deal of just keeping people out there. It was a challenge. I would end up driving most days,” Bob recalls. “I remember there was a day where I drove four routes and I was just turning one empty truck in for a new truck. It was back during the boom when you just did everything you could to get the day done.”
Bob’s dad retired in the 1980s and Bob became the president. He said that throughout his time with Western Wyoming Beverages, he found that working with family was both challenging and rewarding. “When you work with other employees, they can quit and leave and that’s a choice that they have. Family has a hard time quitting and leaving, so it’s a burden both ways there. But typically family pays a bigger price than other employees in what’s expected of them,” he said.
He said he was lucky that his sister came in and worked as the accountant, as they had a great dynamic for working together. “We really had a wonderful time, it was a great partnership that we had.” Then his brother-in-law came and worked for him, and eventually his two nephews run the company now.
“Working with family, though it’s challenging, it’s very rewarding. I would probably still be working if it wasn’t for my two nephews running it … there comes a time when you’ve got to hand over the reigns and allow it to go forward,” Bob said.
Retirement: A Well-Earned Break… Sort Of
Anyone who knows Bob probably knows that he has stayed busy in his retirement so far. However, Bob said he enjoys the rest he’s been able to get since stepping down as president of the company.
“I’m very happy with retirement, I have a few interests I get to play with now. And it’s nice when you get up in the middle of winter and the wind’s blowing and you can just go, ‘you know what, coffee sounds good’,” he said. “I spent 44 years being the guy who had to go out there no matter what. At that time, I was basically the one who opened the warehouse and closed the warehouse. If I didn’t show up, nobody went to work, and we stayed until it all got back in. So retirement has been restful for me.”
One of those interests he’s gotten to explore more is joining the Sweetwater County Fair Board where he is now serving in his second term as the board chairperson.
“Everybody goes to the fair, and it’s fun building the fair, it’s fun being a part of knowing what’s going to happen,” he said.
Bob also spends his time with the Sweetwater Shrine Club. His dad was a Shriner, so his interest was piqued early in life.
“When I was very young, I became a bartender for the Shriners that would come in. So at a very young age I got to get to know these people, and they were just very good, salt of the earth, fun people to know. They’re characters, they’re just great people. So at that time I decided I wanted to be a Shriner,” Bob said.
He’s spent several years serving in a variety of positions in the Shrine Club, and has met a lot of great friends along the way. This year he was the Chief Potentate’s aid, where he said he is basically a paid gopher. “It’s been a fun year, I got to go back out and see all my old buddies. The Shrine is like a circle of friends.”
Bob has also been spending his time as the chairman of Admiral Beverage Corporation, which is now a billion-dollar corporation that owns three production facilities in Worland, Ogden, Utah and Napa, Idaho, and multiple sales centers throughout the western United States.
“My position is more ceremonial than I actually do anything. It’s been fun to get to see the inner workings,” he said.
Throughout Bob’s career, he has worked with many individuals and groups in the county. He said that’s one of the most fun parts about working at Western Wyoming Beverages.
“You get to know different groups, you get to work with them. I couldn’t tell you how many groups I’ve been involved with over the years,” he said.
He said it’s an enjoyable thing to be able to provide the drinks for these groups to then sell and be able to support their goals. Helping others achieve their goals and support themselves is something Bob has cherished being a part of in all aspects of his life, whether at Western Wyoming Beverages, as a Shriner, or even during his time with the chamber’s board. Perhaps Bob’s ability throughout his career to build relationships and put people first answers his “why me” question.
“I think if you’re good at doing your job then you’re requested to do other jobs. I’m not saying I’m good, it’s just I’ve had a lot of jobs,” Bob laughed. “I think you’ve just got to talk to people. If you talk to them, they’ll talk back. I’m good at doing that. I like to talk to people.”