Start spreading the news. I'm leaving today. I want to be a part of it, New York, New York...
If I can make it here, I'll make it anywhere, it's up to you, New York, New York.
Byron Hoover's first taste of New York City was during a high school journalism trip. A select group of seniors got to participate in a scholarship journalism conference held at Columbia University. Staffers on The Tilghman Bell were there to receive an award for the paper. “I was blown away by New York City,” said Hoover. Years later, he would move to ‘The Big Apple’ to experience all the magnificent city had to offer.
Hoover was raised in western Kentucky and attended several schools in McCracken County. He made the rounds at Reidland, Lone Oak, and finally the Paducah City Schools. Once in the city school district, Hoover attended McNabb Elementary, Jetton Junior High, and Paducah Tilghman High School.
While in high school, Hoover participated in Key Club, The Tilghman Bell, concert choir, swing choir, and ‘Another Shade of Blue.’ Musical performance at PTHS was a big deal. “Loretta Whitaker, the director of the choral program, instilled in me great appreciation for music that I carry with me to this day.” said Hoover.
Not only did Hoover share the stage in song and dance but in academics. He was one of three Valedictorians at PTHS. The other two were Mary K. (Dyer) Hinkle and Ann-Margret Rehberg.
The next choreographed move was to matriculate at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia where Hoover would study economics and political science. Two alumni from the class of ‘82, Hinkle and Amy Bright Ouellette, attended Emory as well. Hoover said, “It was a wonderful school and I loved being in the big city of Atlanta.”
After graduation, Hoover was off to the U.S. Capitol. He worked in Washington D.C. as a legislative assistant for Kentucky Senator Wendell Ford serving on a committee for Rules and Administration. “I had a strong interest in politics and thought I would go to law school,” he said. “Though I was a lowly junior staffer, I loved being close to the action and feeling like I was part of history in some small way.”
Hoover’s original plan was to become a lawyer, but his dream was to have an international career and live overseas. As a matter of fact, one of Hoover’s mentors made a suggestion that would change his life and help to make his dream come true.
Senate Legal Counsel Mike Davidson advised Hoover to go to business school. By altering his educational plan, he could achieve his dream job. Hoover followed this sage advice and after a year in D.C., left for Cornell University to get his MBA.
“Business school at Cornell was intense,” said Hoover. Cornell University is a private and statutory Ivy League research university in Ithaca, New York. Notable alumni include Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, Ratan Tata, Indian industrialist, philanthropist, and head of Tata Sons, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and Dr. Anthony Fauci.
After the first year at Cornell, Hoover was accepted into an international exchange program with Belgium's KU Leuven, one of the oldest universities in Europe, studying management. One year later, Hoover took an internship position in brand management with Procter & Gamble at the Brussels office. Then, it happened. “My dream came true and literally changed my life,” said Hoover. After the internship, he was offered a full time job with P&G.
The next 10 years were spent in Europe. There were six years working with P&G at their Brussels and Frankfurt, Germany offices. Then, another four years working in a marketing role for the Disney theme park in Paris, France. “I felt unbelievably blessed and lucky. Here I was a kid from Paducah who spent summers on his grandparents dairy farm in Graves County living in Paris, France and working at the happiest place on earth.” exclaimed Hoover.
In 2000, Hoover moved back to the U.S. and started working for a digital marketing agency in New York. Shortly after, a referral was made on Hoover’s behalf that introduced him to the wine and spirits industry. The referral came from a college friend and set him up for international travel.
The company was Jose Cuervo, the largest tequila company in the world. As marketing director, Hoover’s role was global. “I think the industry is fascinating,” said Hoover. “You have brands that are over 150 years old but also a lot of innovation for new products.”
Jose Cuervo is a family-run business that has 225 years of distilling experience and is the number one producer of agave by-product in the world. During Hoover's time with the company he helped to expand the brand into over 40 countries, created a global ad campaign, and launched new products like a ready to drink margarita.
After tequila, came whiskey and the move to Chicago, Illinois. Hoover went to work for Beam Suntory as vice president in charge of a global whiskey portfolio which included ‘flagship brands Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam.’ As a marketing guru, Hoover said, “The ability to tap into emotions and insights around consumer behavior is what I love most about marketing.” He said that marketing spirits did just that. It places people in social experiences that are happy, fun, and carefree.
Obviously, Hoover’s career has been the focal point of his life, however, he continued to look for opportunities to perform musically. While at Emory, he was in the glee club. In Europe, he participated in community choirs. In New York, there was the community choir affiliated with The Juilliard School. “There were cool things like performing with the Philharmonic and singing at Carnegie Hall,” said Hoover. It was activities such as these that kept the passion alive.
Since arriving in Chicago, there’s been no singing or dancing. However, he did meet his husband which put a spring in his step. The two met in 2010 only months after Hoover arrived in the Windy City. In 2013, the couple had a civil union before same-sex marriage was legal. In 2015, they were officially married.
Hoover loves Chicago. It offers all the things he loved about New York with less hassle and half the cost. He said, “There’s a sense of community...feels like a small town where everybody knows your name.”
Since moving to Chicago, Hoover has returned to Paducah more frequently. His dad, Jerry Hoover passed away last September. Jerry worked in state government in Frankfort before retiring. He worked in city government in Paducah and was the Executive Director for the Chamber of Commerce for many years. Hoover’s mom, Kathy Wood, is retired from the English Department at WKCTC. She currently resides in Symsonia, Kentucky with Hoover’s stepdad.
After leaving Beam Suntory, Hoover became an independent consultant in the wine and spirits industry. His focus is marketing but assists some of his long time clients in whatever they need. Hoover said, “I embrace a servant leadership. I’ll assist clients, leverage my skills to help non-profits, or support a friend.”
Hoover said, “There have been some ‘what if’ moments for me. What if I hadn’t turned down that job offer or stayed in Europe?” Through it all, he’s lived the dream of having an international career. He’s visited 50 countries. His latest trip was a year ago before COVID to New Zealand.
Hoover’s other love is performing. After COVID, he may join another community choir. So, "Start spreading the news...He'll try it again. He'll make a brand new start of it. Once again."
“Overall I feel grateful to have had all the experiences I’ve had, the accomplishments in my professional and personal life, the ability to travel and see the world, and a wonderful network of friends and family to enjoy all of it." Byron Hoover