The consolidation of beer distributors has taken another step in southern Wisconsin and could cost more than 100 people their jobs.
Wisconsin Distributors of Sun Prairie is purchasing River City Distributing Co. in Watertown, according to a notice filed Monday with the state Department of Workforce Development.
The sale, scheduled to to be finalized in late March, will close the Watertown facility on the city’s west side and eliminate 72 full-time and 35 part-time positions. It was not clear how many positions would move from Watertown to Wisconsin Distributors’ facilities in Sun Prairie and Appleton.
“I hate to see River City Distributing close,” Watertown Mayor John David said late Monday. “They have been a business fixture in Watertown for many years and they’ve always been very supportive of community events and organizations. I do hope that the new owners will continue to support our community.”
Casey Trudgeon, executive vice president and general manager at Wisconsin Distributors, and Don Kwapil, president of River City, could not be reached for comment late Monday.
Kwapil, in a letter notifying the state of the job losses, said the positions will include 21 sales positions, 20 service representatives and 15 part-time merchandiser jobs.
River City was founded by Kwapil in 1981 and has been a distributor of Budweisier and other Anheuser-Busch products and 19 national craft beer brands including Goose Island. The company’s Wisconsin craft beer roster includes New Glarus Brewing, O’so Brewing of Plover, Tyranena Brewing of Lake Mills, Potosi Brewing Co. and 3rd Sign of Waunakee. River City has distribution rights for some of those brands in the Madison area.
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Like River City, Wisconsin Distributors is also a major Anheuser-Busch distributor, but the purchase will beef up the company’s Wisconsin craft portfolio that is limited to products from Verona’s Wisconsin Brewing and Madison’s Vintage Brewing and One Barrel Brewing, according to the Wisconsin Distributors’ website.
“The closure has been prompted by the company’s decision to sell substantially all of its assets to WDI,” Kwapil wrote. “The company will ensure that employees will be paid all earned wages and agreed-upon benefits in accordance with Wisconsin law and any applicable agreements.”
Wisconsin Distributors serves over 22 counties in southern Wisconsin and traces its roots to 1986 with the merger of McCarville Distributing of Spring Green and Mergen Wholesale in Prairie Du Chien. In 2000, the McCarville family established a majority interest in Wisconsin Distributors.
In 2002 the company consolidated operations in Sun Prairie, closing facilities in Janesville, Spring Green and Fond du Lac, and in 2006, Wisconsin Distributors purchased Tri-County Distributors in Appleton.
The sale of River City is the second high-profile change in distributor ownership in the last three months.
In October, Middleton-based Frank Beverage Group purchased Beer Capitol Distributing Co. in Sussex, a move that created a territory from La Crosse through Madison to the metro Milwaukee area. Frank Beverage brands include MillerCoors products such as Miller Lite and Blue Moon, as well as Heineken and Corona, a similar mix to those carried by Beer Capitol, which retained its name and 320 employees after the sale.