David Trone’s story is an American story. Born in Cheverly, Maryland, David’s mother was a teacher and his father was a salesman for Trans World Airlines (TWA). When David was 11, his dad moved the family to a working farm near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. With no indoor plumbing for a year and a father with no experience in farming, David and his brothers carried much of the load, selling eggs, cleaning hog pens and chicken houses, and all the other work farming requires.
David knows the importance of education firsthand. It enabled him to go from a struggling farm to starting a successful company. With student loans and money from brokering eggs from a phone booth, David earned a BA from Furman University (summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa) and a MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania.
David learned his first business lessons the hard way: watching his father struggle with the finances of the family farm. His family lost the farm, but David gained valuable lessons about failure, success, and the value of persistence and hard work. These lessons were the foundation of the successful business career he began soon thereafter.
Total Wine & More Story
David opened his first store while he was a graduate student. Its success confirmed his belief that success in retail depends on offering great products at lower prices than the competition, creating an exceptional experience for consumers, and providing superior compensation and opportunities for his team members.
From one store in 1991, David has built Total Wine & More into the largest private wine retailer in the country with almost $2.7 billion in annual revenue from 172 stores in 22 states. Of almost 6,000 employees nationwide, over 500 are based at the headquarters in Bethesda. They have been named national “Retailer of the Year” four times.
David’s approach to retail disrupted an industry that had put profits ahead of the consumer. In the process, David became a target for entrenched interests. In Pennsylvania, his competitors convinced the Attorney General to indict and arrest David on charges the judge referred to as “prosecutorial overreach.” All charges were dismissed or dropped, and the Attorney General was later sent to federal prison.
This experience gave David a firsthand experience with the vagaries of the criminal justice system. If not for excellent legal representation most defendants cannot afford, he could easily have been wrongfully convicted. As a result, David and his wife June have been among the largest supporters of the American Civil Liberties Union for over 20 years. In recognition of the Trones’ support, the ACLU recently created the Trone Center for Justice and Equality which advocates for reforms that keep people out of prison for minor offenses, ensure that prisons rehabilitate inmates, provide education and job training, and make it easier for people to gain employment and rebuild their lives upon release.
David also heads an ACLU advisory board of private sector and education leaders that encourages business nationwide to assist people reentering social after incarceration. Their recent report shows that hiring returning citizens is not only the right thing to do but also good for business.
In business and beyond, David’s top priority is family. At Wharton, David met June, who earned a degree in engineering before earning her MBA. They recently celebrated their 30th wedding anniversary. Their four children – Michelle, Julia, Natalie, and Rob – are young adults. The youngest Trones are energetic canines, Lyndon and Hubert. While building Total Wine & More, David always found time to be deeply involved in his children’s lives. He coached youth sports for 16 years, including 13 different teams in one hectic year.
His commitment to family extends to business. Total Wine & More pays higher wages and benefits than their competitors, and they were the first to provide partner benefits. Total Wine & More also invests in team members by paying for them to earn their GEDs and has a pilot program that offers a four-year college degree paid for by the company. As a result, Total Wine & More has one of the highest proportions of full-time employees and one of the lowest employee turnover rates in the retail industry.
David believes that success only means something if you give back. Total Wine & More and the Trone family are major benefactors in education and other non-profits. Total Wine & More works with charities in the communities where they operate, having given and raised millions for food banks, women’s shelters, cultural organization, and others that play major roles in people’s lives. Over the last three years alone, Total Wine & More’s charitable donations totaled almost $20 million to 7,000 local organizations.
David, June, and their children have donated millions more through their family foundation, including a recent contribution to Suburban Hospital in Montgomery County in part to help expand treatment for substance abuse and mental health.
David has also served on the boards of numerous non-profit organizations, including Furman University, the Wharton School, American University, Bullis School, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce.
David knows that his path to success was possible not just because of hard work but also because of opportunities that he has had. He is a proud Democrat and has been deeply involved in politics at the local and national level, both personally and in his business. Operating in the most regulated retail industry in America, David has worked closely with elected leaders from city council members to mayors to governors and state legislators to give consumers a break.
David and June have hosted events at their home to benefit the political activities of President Obama, President and Secretary Clinton, and Vice-Presidential nominee Tim Kaine, among others.