Before entering his kingdom, George Thomas Dave dons his crown—a blue hairnet pulled over a fashionably short buzz cut. He pushes open the doors of his year-old factory, releasing a gust of cold air and the scent of vinegar. The interior is all steel and fluorescence, light glinting offDave’s diamond-sheathed Rolex, the metallic studs on his dress shoes and the platinum rings on his forefinger, ring finger and little finger.
Winding his way through the place, he watches a batch of his bestselling organic ginger kombucha get pumped into 16-ounce glass bottles, 100 at time. Each has a white label touting the fermented tea’s ingredients (electrolytes, probiotics, enzymes) and purported benefits (reawaken, rebirth, renewal). Dave reaches the end of the 200-foot bottling line, where four robotic arms fill, stack and move cases of kombucha. He spent $40 million building in Vernon, California, 5 miles south of Los Angeles, allowing him to produce more than 1 million gallons a year. “This is the next level for us,” says the impeccably cheekboned Dave, known as “GT” since before he began brewing kombucha at his mother’s kitchen table.
Dave, 41, takes the opportunity to make a point, one very important to him and his GT’s Living Foods, a business with an estimated $275 million in sales. This new, 260,000-square-foot factory doesn’t mean he’s changing how his kombucha is made. Unlike many o