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Keeping lights on and spirits up

Monday, October 29, 2018
cory with friends at his brewery

Interim VP of CPS Energy hops into craft beer market

Cory Kuchinsky ’03, ’04,   B.A. Business, M.A. Accounting

by Mary Denny

As interim vice president of CPS Energy, Cory Kuchinsky leads the finance division of one of the nation’s largest gas and electricity combined utilities—it powers the nation’s seventh largest city. On a much smaller scale—for now, at least—he also has jumped into the craft beer market with TKO Libations Craft Brewery, a private venture he launched earlier this year. Taking that plunge is not surprising, given his family legacy of hard work and entrepreneurship.

The grandson of Holocaust survivors who met in Italy after WWII, Cory says, “Early on I was aware of how fortunate I was to be here.” Like many immigrants, his maternal grandparents arrived with nothing, but learned English, raised two daughters, and started a successful headboard business. Cory was born in Toronto, grew up in Florida, and arrived in Texas when his father was transferred here.

Cory first learned of Trinity from Chip Thomas, a football coach who was recruiting potential student-athletes at Cory’s high school. Impressed with Trinity’s combination of superb academics and athletics, he enrolled as a science major. Quickly realizing “that was not going to work” for him, he tried a few business classes, excelled in and enjoyed them, and ended his undergraduate career with an accounting and finance concentration. He stayed an extra year to earn his master’s degree in accounting.

While Cory rates all his professors as excellent, his standouts include professors Linda Specht, his first accounting instructor, and Petrea Sandlin, who led the accounting department. Fondly, he recalls Rich Butler, Professor Emeritus of economics, as “one of the most charismatic professors I had. He taught economics but could teach anything. It was evident how much he cared about his students and Trinity.”

Football provided Cory an equally rewarding experience. He played corner for the Tigers and as a senior played in the national championship game in 2002. Although the team lost, Cory remembers, “That season was pretty amazing. Those experiences and memories are just as fresh now as they were then.” What he learned, he says, was that “I can find success with a very basic approach: Stay focused on your goal, work harder than anyone else, take a few risks, and don’t be afraid to fail. That applied academically and athletically while at Trinity and now professionally.”

Cory says that when he retires from his career, “Teaching and coaching is what I’d like to do in my golden years.” He began teaching adjunct at the adult program at the University of the Incarnate Word in 2007, and not long after Sandlin offered him a part-time position teaching accounting at Trinity, too. Even at CPS Energy, Cory taught a financial acumen course for new supervisors.

Cory began his professional career with Ernst & Young, where he earned his CPA along with a “really good introduction to the business world.” Twelve years ago he joined CPS Energy, attracted by its community-owned business model. “There is no profit motive,” he explains, “but there is a passion to pursue decisions that were best for San Antonio. Specifically, the 3,000+ employees are also customers. There is an inherent incentive to do the best job you can. It was and still is a well run business with a unique attachment to the San Antonio community.”

At CPS, Cory distinguished himself on a number of special projects. Prior to assuming his current role, he led the upgrade of the city’s gas and electric meter infrastructure as it switched from analog to digital. In 2012, the San Antonio Business Journal listed Cory among its “40 Under 40” up-and-comers to watch. He also serves on the North San Antonio Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors.

a crowd at the breweryIn January 2018, Cory opened TKO Libations Craft Brewery, partnering with his childhood friend and the friend’s brewing partner. The latter two had been winning awards as home brewers, and Cory had long enjoyed their creations. The three of them decided to take the leap to a commercial scale. Located in Lewisville, a small town in north Texas, TKO has just begun distributing to Dallas’ bars and restaurants, although the majority of sales are still on premise. Cory proudly reports that the next phase into wider distribution is currently in development. More than simply a craft brewery, TKO hosts several events a month where they bring in food and live music. “We are family-friendly,” says Cory, “and always have something for the kids while the parents imbibe.” He welcomes alumni, adding, “I’m happy to give a tour!”

Having a full-time job in San Antonio and a growing venture in North Texas keeps Cory busy, but not too busy for his seven-year-old daughter, “whom I love so much,” he says, and his “wonderful girlfriend and her two great kids.” He also likes to bike—mountain biking is his preference—but on nice spring days, he has been known to ride along Salado Creek for hours. An avid Cowboys fan, Cory says, “My long-term dream goal would be to make enough money from TKO to buy the Cowboys...if the Jones family would sell.”

You can contact Cory at ckuchins8 [at] yahoo.com.