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Outer Banks Area Features

Brew Thru

  By: Kip Tabb

For Brew Thru, it’s all about family and fun. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, Brew Thru is an Outer Banks success story and the formula is as simple as owner Philip Foreman tells it.

“We’re selling an image based on fun. We crank up the music and we try to hire the right people. We’re looking for the crazier and friendlier person. If they have the right personality, they’re in,” Philip says.

His in-laws, Dana and Becky Lawrentz, started the business in 1977. They were living in Akron, Ohio, working in the mental health field. It was, as Dana says, “time for a change.”

They and two partners bought some land in Nags Head and developed the original Brew Thru there. It was a classic startup operation. “We built the building ourselves—which was interesting because not one of us had any architectural experience,” Dana recalls. The partners wanted to leave the business after two years and sold the Lawrentzes their half of the business.

For the Outer Banks, a drive-thru beer store was novel, but Dana admits the idea was not original. “I wish I could take credit for the idea. There were some drive-thrus in Akron, but most were junky places. We just … built a better store,” he says.

As for Philip, there may have been a touch of destiny that led him to eventually take over the business. He saw his wife, Brandy Lawrentz, on his first day of high school.

“I saw my wife in the lobby of the school as a freshman and knew then that I was going to marry her,” Philip recalls.

The couple dated through high school and college. While Philip was in college, Dana invited him to try running one of his stores.

“I really liked it. It was more than just selling beer,” Philip says. It was the customers that Philip found he liked… or maybe the attitude of the customers.

“We don’t have angry customers,” he explains. “Either they’ve been through before and had the best service on the beach, or they’re just coming for the first time and they’re mesmerized by such an amazing business.”

After college Philip came back to the Outer Banks and after a meeting with Dana, his fate was sealed. “I think you’d be good at this,” Dana told him.

“Three years later in 2002 we signed the paperwork to buy it,” Philip adds.

Of course, there have been some changes over the years. Shortly after opening the original store, the Lawrentzes began selling Brew Thru t-shirts. To date, over 4 million t-shirts have been sold and they can be seen on wearers around the world. But what has changed the most is one of their more important products… the beer. The current selection includes micro-brews and imports. “Twenty years ago, we offered around 40 beers. Now we carry over 120,” Philip says.

Other things remain the same. According to Philip, “The service will always be outstanding and the selection will be the best and coldest on the beach. There’s never a dull moment at the Brew Thru!”

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