Blue Ridge Beverage was founded in 1938 as a beer distributor. The Company has been under the direct ownership of the Archer family since 1959, when James M. Archer, Jr. and his wife, Regine, moved their family to the Roanoke Valley.
Under Mr. Archer’s management, Blue Ridge Beverage initially grew by diversifying into various beer and soft drink brands. In 1961, the Company entered the wine business by acquiring the distribution rights of an Alexandria, Virginia distributor that was exiting the Roanoke Valley market. These original brands formed the basis for what is now Southwest Virginia’s largest and most diversified wine distributor.
In 1969, tobacco and retailing giant Philip Morris acquired Miller Brewing Company, and, with its new parent’s sales and marketing expertise, Miller exploded in size and became the U.S.’s second largest brewer. Throughout the 1970’s, Blue Ridge Beverage’s growth mirrored the fortunes of Miller Brewing, and during this period Miller cited Blue Ridge Beverage as one of its most effective distributors, winning the prestigious Miller Masters Award on several occasions.
Blue Ridge Beverage continued to expand through acquisitions of beverage brands and territories. In 1984, the Archer family acquired Cavalier Beverage Company, Inc., a Miller distributorship in Charlottesville, Virginia. In 1988, Cavalier Beverage purchased the Miller distributorship in Harrisonburg, Virginia, which was renamed Shenandoah Beverage Company and was managed along with the Charlottesville operation as one company.
In 1987, Blue Ridge Beverage nearly doubled its wine business by acquiring a large competitor headquartered in the Roanoke Valley. In 1997, Cavalier and Shenandoah were merged into Blue Ridge Beverage. Blue Ridge Beverage also acquired the Miller franchise rights and certain other franchises of Southern Virginia Distributing Company and in 1998 opened a facility in South Boston, Virginia. Also in 1998, Blue Ridge Beverage acquired the Miller Brewing distribution rights of JRB Corporation. This transaction combined with certain other beer franchise rights the Company already owned enabled it to establish the Lynchburg-based malt beverage division.
In 2001, the Company combined the Charlottesville and Harrisonburg operations into a new facility in Waynesboro, Virginia. With this move, Blue Ridge Beverage was operating in four strategically located and efficient facilities in Salem, Waynesboro, South Boston and Lynchburg.
In 2003, Blue Ridge Beverage acquired Dod Distributing Co., Inc. Dod was a Coors Brewing Company distributor with a broad malt beverage portfolio including Corona, Yuengling, and Sierra Nevada. The Company merged Dod’s operation into the Waynesboro facility, and in 2006 the Waynesboro Division won the prestigious President’s Award, given annually to the top twenty Coors distributors nationally.
In 2005, Red Bull North America appointed Blue Ridge Beverage as its distributor of Red Bull Energy Drink in 33 counties and 13 cities of the Company’s territory. Effective June 18, 2012, RBNA appointed the Company to be its distributor in the Abingdon division’s thirteen counties and three independent cities. Red Bull North America is now Blue Ridge Beverage’s largest non-alcoholic beverage supplier and its [second] largest beverage supplier overall in terms of sales dollars. The Salem (including the Lynchburg area), Waynesboro, South Boston and Abingdon divisions distribute the Red Bull brand.
In 2008, Blue Ridge Beverage acquired Evans Distributing Company, a legacy Miller Brewing Company and E&J Gallo Winery distributor. Evans serviced 14 Southwest Virginia counties and three independent cities, all but one county of which Blue Ridge Beverage had not previously serviced. Its operations became the Company’s Southwest (now Abingdon) Division.
In 2009, Blue Ridge Beverage acquired the beer business of Virginia Distributing Company in Lynchburg and Roanoke. As a result, the Company’s Lynchburg division became its second consolidated MillerCoors operation. In addition, the Company added other important brands to its portfolio, including the portfolios of Crown Imports and Diageo-Guinness USA in Lynchburg and those of Heineken USA and Pabst Brewing Company in Lynchburg and Roanoke.
Blue Ridge Beverage has a long history of distributing craft beer for such industry pioneers as Boston Beer, Sierra Nevada, and Rogue Ales. In 2011, New Belgium Brewing Company, the nation’s third largest craft brewer, appointed Blue Ridge Beverage as its distributor for the Company’s entire 49-county, 17-city footprint. Blue Ridge Beverage started selling New Belgium’s Fat Tire and other brands, adding greatly to the excitement around craft beer. The Company has been successful in attracting a number of local and regional craft brands during this period of unprecedented growth, including Wild Wolf Brewing, Foothills Brewing, Boulevard, Bull & Bones, Sly Fox, Duck Rabbit and Lazy Magnolia, among others.
In March 2013, the Abingdon (then Southwest) Division moved out of the Evans’ Marion facility and occupied a new, state-of-the-art facility, which is located more centrally to its territory in Abingdon, VA. In July, the Company purchased the operating assets of Gwyn Distributing Company of Marion, VA, and moved them into the Abingdon facility. Gwyn provided an outstanding portfolio of beers to complement Abingdon’s relatively lean portfolio, including the brands of Yuengling Brewery, Diageo-Guinness USA, Sierra Nevada, Rogue, and Old Milwaukee, among others. Gwyn also distributed a number of wine brands, and the acquisition was a significant step towards consolidating the Constellation Brands’ wine portfolio in this territory.
Blue Ridge Beverage’s objective is to provide the most experienced, efficient, sophisticated, full-service beverage distribution model for beverage suppliers to achieve and sustain their brand objectives in Central and Southwest Virginia. Many of these attributes, in addition to the Company’s ongoing commitment to investing in brands, people, technology, and tangible assets, have resulted in the Company’s preferred distributor status for many of its existing and prospective suppliers across all categories. Blue Ridge Beverage’s commitment to product quality has earned it the prestigious Bill Coors Excellence in Quality Award for two years in a row. In 2012, the Waynesboro Division scored a perfect 100 on MillerCoors’ quality audit, which assesses a distributor’s internal warehousing processes in addition to retail product freshness and package integrity. The Lynchburg Division earned the nation’s top spot among more than 600 distributorships for 2013. Equally impressive was the fact that all five of the Company’s divisions scored among the top ten MillerCoors distributors nationally in both years, further evidencing Blue Ridge Beverage’s institutionalized quality commitment.
Today, Blue Ridge employs nearly 400 people, and its successful growth strategy and strong competitive position are directly attributable to the quality of those employees. The Company has been under the continuous leadership of the Archer family for 55 years. Regine Archer, who is Chairman and her six children –Nancy A. Doucette, an inventory specialist in Salem; Bob, who is Company President and CEO and the Immediate Past Chair of the National Beer Wholesalers Association; Jim who is Executive Vice President and COO; Paul, who is a Company Vice President and is based out of the Waynesboro Division; Evelyn A. Hunt, who is South Boston division GM; and Jackie, who is Executive Vice President and CFO—are all actively involved. However, without a large team of experienced, hard-working and dedicated non-family managers and employees, none of the Company’s achievements would be possible. Blue Ridge Beverage continually strives to offer customers the highest quality beverage products available, to provide suppliers and customers the highest service levels possible and, above all, to provide motivation, leadership, and an excellent work environment for its valued employees.