Robert J. Gretz, 91, Phila. brewery scion

Robert J. Gretz
Robert J. Gretz
Posted: September 30, 2013

Robert J. Gretz, 91, a scion of the family that brewed beer in Philadelphia under the Gretz name and later sold it wholesale from operations in the suburbs, died Wednesday, Sept. 25, of coronary artery disease at Beaumont at Bryn Mawr.

The Rieger & Gretz Brewing Co. was founded in 1882 by Mr. Gretz's grandfather, William. It was renamed the William Gretz Brewing Co. after Prohibition ended in 1933.

During the company's heyday in the 1940s and early 1950s, Robert Gretz was director of sales. Under his leadership, the firm became one of the largest, most successful breweries in Philadelphia.

The company outlasted others in North Philadelphia and Brewerytown, according to Pennsylvania brewery historian Rich Wagner, because of savvy marketing and adoption of the can.

"The beer can was a new thing in 1935, and Gretz was one of the beers that went into cans," said Wagner, on Hidden City Philadelphia.com. "If you weren't in that packaged beer market, you stood to go out of business."

The brewery sponsored men's and women's bowling teams, a barbershop quartet, and one year a televised beauty pageant called the "The Gretz Cavalcade of Girls," according to Hidden City Philadelphia. The winner was Joan Kinckiner from Camden.

Mr. Gretz left the business in 1954 after tension developed between the generations. The brewery at Germantown and Oxford Avenues shut down in 1961. The building still stands, a testament to the rich history of the business, the family said in a statement.

Mr. Gretz then founded a new enterprise, the Delco Beverage Co. The firm later became the Gretz Beer Co. It still has operations on Stony Lane in Doylestown and on Main Street in Norristown's East End.

An Anheuser Busch wholesaler, the firm distributes craft beer across the nation.

Born in Philadelphia, Mr. Gretz grew up in Mount Airy. He graduated from La Salle High School and earned a bachelor's degree in economics from Villanova University.

In 1947, he married the former Eloise Morris, also from Mount Airy. She had been impressed by billboards on Roosevelt Boulevard featuring Gretz Beer, she said, and later met him in Ocean City, N.J. The two made their home in Gladwyne.

He served in the Marines during World War II.

An avid golfer, Mr. Gretz was a longtime member of the Merion Golf Club and the Philadelphia Country Club. He also enjoyed sailing.

Surviving, besides his wife of 66 years, are sons Robert J. Jr., Stephen E., and Michael J.; daughter Suzanne; and seven grandchildren.

A Funeral Mass will be at 11 a.m. Monday, Sept. 30, at St. John Vianney Church, 350 Conshohocken State Rd., Gladwyne. Friends may call starting at 9:30. Interment is in Calvary Cemetery.

Donations may be made to Acting Without Boundaries, 750 E. Haverford Rd., Bryn Mawr, Pa. 19010.

(To read more about the original Gretz brewery go to: http://hiddencityphila.org/2012/06/whats-up-with-the-gretz-brewery/)


bcook@phillynews.com

610-313-8102

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