Valpo Beverages was founded in 1939 by Gail Pool, Rollo Pool, and Ezra Stoner. Ezra Stoner served as President from 1939 until 1961. Miller and Old Crown were among our first brands that were sold. The company merged with City Beverage, another local wholesaler, in 1941. We were successful in obtaining franchise rights to other beer in the forties. The most significant of these was Pabst which we began distributing in 1944.
Our top selling brands during the forties and early fifties were Old Crown from Fort Wayne, Champagne Velvet from Terre Haute, and Atlas Prager from Chicago. The company suffered through hard times during the early fifties and was close to closing the doors in 1953. Our savior was the Falstaff Brewing Company who entered the Indiana market in 1954 and appointed Valpo Beverages as their wholesaler. Falstaff soon became the number one seller in Indiana and maintained that leadership until the mid-1960's.
Harlin Leetz began working and took over the operation of the company in 1962. He served as the President until 1970. Pabst Blue Ribbon flourished through the sixties when it broke with its advertising theme: "Premium Beer at a Popular Price." It was the area's leading seller from the mid 1960's through 1981. At one time, Pabst held almost 40% market share in Porter County.
Due to the growth of Porter County and the tremendous increase in sales of our brands, the company outgrew its warehouse located on Indiana Avenue. We moved into a new warehouse on Elm Street in 1969. Bruce Leetz, who began working at the company in 1963, was appointed President in 1970.
During the seventies, Miller Brewing Company began its selling and marketing of Miller Lite. All of the Miller Brands increased in sales during this era. In 1975, R.C. Cola and Nehi flavors were added to our lines. Once again, the company outgrew its facilities and added an addition to its warehouse in 1977.
Many imported brands of beer were added to our product list during the seventies. One of the most successful was Molson from Canada. Because of our aggressive marketing and selling techniques with Molson, we were appointed the Master Wholesaler for the entire State of Indiana in 1979.
There were a great number of people and wholesalers who competed for the Olympia franchise in 1978. Again, Valpo Beverages won out and began a very fine and prosperous relationship with the Olympia Brewing Company.
In 1980, another addition was added to our facility. This added close to 14,000 square feet with most of this space consisting of a temperature controlled warehouse. A can reclamation center was started in 1977, and this operation was fully automated in late 1981.
During the late seventies and early eighties, Valpo Beverage won several marketing awards from their suppliers. Among these were the Olympia Golden Horseshoe Awards and a Miller Brewing Company Award. The company consistently received the top rating in the state from Miller Brewing Company.
During the late seventies a significant change was made in the beer distributing business in Indiana. The Alcoholic Beverage Commission ruled (Rule 28) that a brewery could not grant their distributors an exclusive territory to market their products. It was an unfair and unjust administrative ruling. It was direct governmental interference in the franchise agreements between the breweries and their distributors. The ruling was passed by an appointed four member agency. It was not a law passed by the legislature. Indiana was the only state with this type of a rule or regulation. A chaotic system of beer distribution followed this ruling. Over two-thirds of the beer wholesalers in Indiana were forced to either close or sell their businesses. This ruling was in effect until its sunset in December, 2001.
The 1980's began with high unemployment and recession in Northwest Indiana. Pabst which held a 40% market share in the 1960's and 70's lost their number one position and went into a deep sales decline.
Imported beers grew at an annual rate of 10-15%. Wine coolers came into the market in the mid-eighties and had great short term sales success.
The delivery of beer went from route sell, using 10 1/2 bay delivery trucks, to pre-sell using 16 bay trucks. The package mix which was very basic and simple in the 60's (returnables, 4/6 cans, kegs) increased to many shapes and sizes in the 70's and 80's.
Miller Lite “Great Taste-Less Filling” continued to show great sales increases. Corona, which was virtually unknown in 1985, grew to the number two import by 1988. Valpo Beverages was appointed the Master Distributor for the state and this was instrumental to our future success.
Valpo Beverages purchased the assets of Van’s Distributing, a fountain syrup distributor, and Kuhn Beverage in 1984. In 1986, we purchased Lake County Beverage. At this time our sales and service departments moved into a "sales center" building on the corner of Roosevelt and Evans. Another warehouse of 8600 square feet was added to the Elm Street facility in 1987.
Sales of imported brands to other distributors during this time added dramatically to our overall volume. Genuine Draft, introduced in 1986, had tremendous consumer acceptance.
Sales of Miller Brewing Company brands reached 980,000 cases in 1987. One million cases of Miller were sold by November 19, 1988. One million cases of Miller brands were sold by October 5, 1989.
We purchased Starke County Beverage in the late eighties to increase our marketing area to the east.
The decade of the eighties which began with Northwest Indiana in difficult economic times ended with a strong recovery.
Valpo Beverages ended the decade strong, a survival of the beer wars, and as one of the most respected beverage wholesalers in the state.
In November of 1991, Valpo Beverage was awarded the highly coveted Coors Brewing Company’s Franchise for seven counties in northwest Indiana. Being assigned the Coors brands was not an easy task and the process was very competitive. We were chosen because of our reputation with our customers, our business practices and policies, and because of our execution at retail.
The Coors franchise was significant because they were and remain a top national brewer with great quality brands. Also, because we were the only distributor in our market area with these brands, we could invest in them and build brand equity. It gave us the opportunity to offer our retailers a better brand portfolio.
In March of 1992, Valpo Beverages, Inc. changed its corporate name to North Coast Distributing, Inc. Expansion of our business from just a Porter County distributor to a seven-county distributor inspired the name change. In August of 1993, we moved to our new distribution facility at 705 Silhavy, Valparaiso, Indiana. On December 30, 1993, North Coast Distributing sold its 2 millionth case of Miller products.
Drastic changes took place in the beer business in 1994. In '94 consumers tuned into an impressive assortment of light, dark, low-calorie, non-alcoholic, boutique labels, prestige imports, micro brews, ice beers and animal beers - like Red Dog - from Miller. We broke our sales record again in 1994. We sold over 3 million total cases of all products.
1995 was again a record year. We sold over 3 1/2 million cases. On April 1, 1995, North Coast Distributing bought the Miller Franchise from Beer Mart located in Rensselaer and Tippecanoe Beverage in Winamac. Our twenty year goal of becoming the exclusive distributor of Miller Brewing Company brands in Northwest Indiana was achieved.
1995 was also a year "Dry Beer" - dried out, and "Ice Beers" - chilled out. North Coast Distributing ran several successful promotions including live radio - remotes called Live at Five. We became very aggressive with shelf management and split our sales department into three selling teams. We also coined the term Red Zone Accounts to help us focus on our key accounts, and Bruce was appointed Chairman of the Coors Wholesaler Advisory Board.
The year 1996 began with a new Miller logo and the introduction of the New Miller Beer. Team North Coast worked hard and again achieved new sales records. The biggest record came on December 31st when we delivered our 3 millionth case of Miller. Quite an achievement when you look back upon 1972 when we delivered 13,000+ cases of Miller the entire year. The river-boats opened in Lake County and with perseverance and commitment from Team North Coast we were successful in our selling efforts.
On January 15, 1997, in the middle of a snow storm, Team North Coast boarded two buses and headed to Miller Brewing in Milwaukee in celebration of our 3 Million case sales in 1996. The highlight of 1997 was how Team North Coast executed in the market place during July 4th week and basically shut out the competition. This was an example of how working together we dominated the market and achieved our sales goal of 4 Million total cases in 1997.
We ended our relationship with RC Cola early in 1998 after distributing those products for over twenty-three years. This was not only an economic decision but a desire to focus more on our beer business.
Another highlight in 1998 saw North Coast Distributing win the coveted Pete Coors Quality Award for excellence in quality standards at retail which lead to North Coast being recognized by Coors Brewing Company as number one in quality over all its distributors in the State of Indiana.
The year of 1998 was another record breaker for Team North Coast. Sales were helped by the NCAA Tournament during Valpo University's drive to the Sweet 16. During the five years, after we moved into our warehouse on Silhavy Road, our beer business grew by over 40%.
The nineties brought sophistication to the beer distributor. As off premise sales increased from 65 to 70% of our business, we began making more chain calls, created a separate merchandising and shelf management division, went exclusively to pre-sell, and are utilizing computer technology, including hand held computers and EFT. Our sales department makes marketing decisions in each account and provides our customers with up to date sales information.
As we entered the 21st century, North Coast Distributing embarked on an expansion project and completed a 12,000 square foot addition which included a 60% increase in cooler storage capacity to accommodate growth in overall draft beer and Coors Brewing Company sales. This took total capacity up to just over 112,000 square feet under roof by year-end 2000.
Our business continued to grow into 2001 and our "Detail at Retail" created significant increases across our portfolio. Our Coors business flourished which translated into North Coast Distributing being ranked as the number one in the state by the Coors Brewing Company Distributor Scoreboard, in addition to being similarly ranked number one in Indiana's Mid Central Market Area by Miller Brewing Company. We were fortunate enough to win our first Miller High Life Achievement Award that year and be recognized as the Best of the Best at Miller's National Sales Meeting.
2002 brought more accolades from Miller Brewing Company as we won a second, consecutive, High Life Achievement Award that year, and were recognized by Governor O'Bannon of the State of Indiana with the "Half-Century" Award for outstanding contributions to the economic prosperity of the state.
Our commitment to community is an important part of our Mission Statement, and in 2003 North Coast Distributing received an award for fifty years of business excellence bestowed by the Greater Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce and presented by Mayor David Butterfield. That honor was followed by winning a third Miller High Life Achievement in 2003. North Coast Distributing became the only million case plus distributor in the Miller system to be recognized for this distinction for three consecutive years. Our continued strong performance with the Coors brands allowed us to also capture the Coors Distributor Excellence Award for the State of Indiana in 2003.
The portfolio of brands expanded in 2003 and Pabst was back in the house along with Old Style as a result of the acquisition of Central Distributing. Our growth merited another building expansion project that year adding an additional 10,000 square feet to the north side of the facility and enclosing the keg dock area to the south.
In 2003 Bruce took a seat on Miller Brewing Company's National Distributor Council during a pivotal time in the brewery's history: South African Breweries (SAB) completed their acquisition of Miller Brewing Company; new leadership on their council; new leadership at their brewery; a resurgence of the Miller Lite brand as carb conscientiousness starts to take hold of society; and SABMiller takes center stage in the beer wars.
Bruce's active participation led Norman Adami, President of Miller, to name Bruce, Chairman of the National Distributor Council in 2004. His forty years of dedication to the industry, track record in growing market share for the brewery, and contribution to economic and charitable development across many communities contributed to Bruce being named in the very first group of Miller Legends that same year.
2005 brought additional milestones to North Coast Distributing. In addition to being recognized for a fourth Miller High Life Achievement Award we also won the Coors President's Award, and the most coveted recognition awarded by the Coors Brewery, its Founder's Award. Pete Coors and several members of Coors Executive Management Team came to Valparaiso to participate in a company-wide gala to celebrate Team North Coast's accomplishment.
On June 27, 2005 Five Star Distributing, a sub distributor of North Coast Distributing, came into existence with the acquisition of City Beverage in Huntington. They are now representing our brands in the twelve county geography that is North East Indiana; stretching from Kosciusko to Steuben to Grant counties, bordering on Michigan and Ohio. Five Star is united in our Mission to responsibly grow our products, out execute the competition and continue to build partnerships with our suppliers, our customers, the communities we serve, and every member of our companies. Five Star's annual case sales of 2.8 million puts combined sales for our two companies at 8.0 million cases.
With the advent of 2006 North Coast Distributing humbly accepted its fifth Miller High Life Achievement Award, and for the second year in a row was named a winner of the Coors President's Award.
2007 proved to be another grand year for Team North Coast. For the third year in a row, North Coast Distributing won the Coors President's Award, making us the only United States distributor to be recognized for three consecutive years. To add to the excitement, Team North Coast won the 2007 Miller High Life Achievement Award for the sixth time in seven years. North Coast Distributing was furthered honored by being selected for the Midwest Regions Distributor of the Year Gold Award. To top that off, the Miller Brewing President's Award was presented recognizing North Coast Distributing as the best distributor in the country. Five Star Distributing was a winner as well. For the first time in their history, they were also awarded with a Miller High Life Achievement Award.
Also in 2007, all of the employees of North Coast Distributing and sub distributor, Five Star Distributing, came together to identify our Core Values. These Core Values define what we are and what we stand for individually and as our separate companies. This six month process concluded with proxies from all the groups adopting five core values. They have been included in our company's mission statements.
In March of 2008, our sub distributor, Five Star Distributing relocated to a new facility in Columbia City, Indiana. This 94,000 square foot location is literally the crossroads of Five Star's 12 county market.
In June of 2008, the Department of Justice announced that the joint venture between Miller Brewing Company and Coors Brewing Company was approved. Our two biggest suppliers became one and set into motion significant changes not only within their organizational structure but also within their suppliers, such as North Coast, who they serve. MillerCoors is born!
In September of 2008, North Coast hosted an Innovator’s Cafe. The event focused on developing a leadership culture that engages all employees and is based upon core values that guide the company. It was the ninth "Cafe" co-sponsored by Ivy Tech Northwest to familiarize leaders with innovation in Northwest Indiana.
Once again Team North Coast earned the Miller High Life Achievement Award for 2008. We also were awarded the 2008 Coors President Award. This was the seventh time we earned the highly esteemed acknowledgement from Miller and the fourth time Coors recognized us as being one of their very best. Both of these awards also marked the end of an era of separate awards from Miller and Coors. A new program for recognizing the very best with MillerCoors was finalized in 2009.
In June of 2009, Indiana Beer, a newly formed distributor which acquired Metro Distributing of South Bend, Indiana, became a sub distributor of North Coast Distributing.
The North Coast family has added Five Star and now Indiana Beer on the sub distributor level. These organizations and their territory throughout the upper third of the state of Indiana represent our core brands of Miller/Coors as well as various imports and specialty craft beers.
With superb focus, execution and under the leadership of Jeff Leetz, Senior VP of Marketing, North Coast was able to explode our craft beer portfolio. As consumer’s tastes and buying habits continue to change, craft beer will continue to grow.
As of 2010, Tenth and Blake Beer Company opened for business. This is a Miller/Coors division dedicated to craft and specialty import beers. The Tenth and Blake Beer Company is to be the "beer drinkers" beer company. Blue Moon and Leinenkugel’s are just two of their award winning brands.
In March of 2010, Jon Leetz was appointed President of North Coast Distributing and Bruce, Chief Executive Officer. Those roles remain current.
2010 was filled with change in the beer business. Unemployment, a global recession and a poor economy continued to result in lower overall beer sales despite nearly perfect summer weather and severe discounting. Yet our craft beer portfolio continued to grow at over 20% as our consumer continues to look for variety and choice.
As beer wholesalers we know a strong three tier system is the key to effective and accountable alcohol control. It was created with the passage of the 21st Amendment to our constitution which repealed the failed experiment of Prohibition. The three tiers brewers or importers, licensed wholesalers (us), and licensed retailers provide for transparency and accountability in the manufacture, distribution, and sale of alcohol. This system has been and is under attack by certain self-interest groups whose goal is to eliminate our jobs and deregulate beer sales for their gain. Their assault began in 2004. In the state of Washington on November 5, 2010, their initiative was defeated. We must continue this fight to promote America's three tier system and America's beverage, BEER, responsibly in accordance with our mission daily.
In 2011, Miller/Coors senior executives and a small group of its key distributors, including Bruce, worked together to publish the Three-Tier System Doctrine. Virtually overnight this has become a landmark document in our industry which defines a clear and enduring set of shared beliefs, principles and commitments related to the existing structure and value of the three tier system. The document has been in print across all national industry trade publications and continues to make an impact. It has been approved by the Miller/Coors Distributor Council and endorsed by the National Beer Wholesalers Association.
As 2011 came to a close, North Coast's new home at 2850 Barley Road in Valparaiso, Indiana, popped out of the ground. It is hard to believe that in March, 2012, a once thirty-six acre corn field was magically transformed into a 215,000 square foot state of the art office and warehouse facility. This happened not by accident, but rather by design because others were ready, willing, and able to sacrifice much to make that goal a reality. For their planning, preparation, and hard work, a debt of gratitude is owed to those that made this possible. Welcoming visitors to North Coast's new warehouse is a delivery wagon from 1881. This is the showcase piece of our in house beer museum. .
2012 provided many opportunities for growth. It is one of those opportunities that allowed North Coast Distributing and Indiana Beer to become one. On October 1, 2012, these two companies formed Indiana Beverage.
In 2012 Team Indiana Beverage earned New Belgium Brewing Company’s National Distributor of the Year award just three years after being appointed as distributor for the brewer of Fat Tire Amber Ale, among others. A bike trip through Belgium in 1988 inspired a young couple to launch the brewery in Ft. Collins, CO bringing the flavors of centuries old Belgian beer styles to the US craft beer category for the first time. Since its establishment in 1991, now 100% employee owned, New Belgium has become one of the most successful craft breweries in the country.
In January, 2015, Indiana Beverage was recognized at “Salute to Leadership” with the Valpo Chamber of Commerce 75 Years of Business Longevity Award.
In 2015 Indiana Beverage received Distributor of the Year Honors for New Holland Brewing Company for the third time in eight years (also 2013 and 2009—North Coast Distributing). New Holland Brewing Company’s deep roots in the craft industry go back to 1997. In 2008 they set out to improve their distribution in northern Indiana including Miller, Valparaiso, South Bend, Fort Wayne and all points in between. In the summer of ‘08 they reassigned their northern territory, and began what would be a very successful shift with North Coast Distributing and Indiana Beer (Now Indiana Beverage) along with Five Star Distributing.
In 2015 and 2016 Indiana Beverage won consecutive Gold Crown Awards—Central Region for Constellation Brands, whose portfolio includes Corona, Modelo Especial, Negra Modelo, and Pacífico, as well as Ballast Point and Funky Buddha.
2017 was a year of growth and opportunity. In the spring of 2017 we welcomed Yuengling, America’s oldest brewery, and the most significant new brewery partner since the Coors Brewing Company came to Indiana in 1991.
In the summer of 2017 Indiana Beverage began construction on a 55,000 sq. ft. westward expansion of our warehouse with dedicated space for special events, repack, facilities services and dunnage. This also allows for expansion of our service department, point of sale storage, forklift charging and installation of mechanical pallet wrappers in our existing warehouse. A truck wash was also constructed to keep the entire fleet shiny and clean year round.
For the first time in history, in October 2018, Team Indiana Beverage turned the 88 year old Notre Dame Football Stadium into an 85,000 person beer drinking occasion for a one night Garth Brooks concert. This was the first concert of such magnitude in the stadium and largest special event in our company’s history. The university and concessionaire were blown away by the attention to detail, passion and teamwork exhibited.
Success is shared with every member of our Team, our suppliers, our customers, and our consumers. The challenges and opportunities of the future drive us to continually set higher standards, and strive to make ourselves and our company better each day. Always moving forward, we must continue to grow and look for new ways to become more efficient and productive. We must be committed to change. In this industry, we cannot stay the same, cannot sit still, we either move forward or backward.
In closing, it's a simple message as we review our past and eagerly await the challenges and opportunities of the future.