Heidelberg Distributing Co. is celebrating its 75th anniversary this month. (See video below.)
The company, which today has nine facilities throughout Ohio and Kentucky, is holding private parties over the next three weekends to celebrate.
The Dayton-based Heidelberg began as a “one-man and one-truck” operation, the company said.
Albert Vontz, a German immigrant and trained brewer who came to the United States in 1907, founded the business in Dayton after buying a distributing route owned by the Covington, Ky.-based Heidelberg Brewery Co.
Vontz had previously invested in two local taverns but then Prohibition hit. After Prohibition ended in 1933, Vontz helped open the Vienna Brewery in Cincinnati. Then he sold his share of the brewery to his brother-in-law and bought the distributing route.
He called the business the Heidelberg Distributing Co. and drove his delivery truck daily between Dayton and Covington. He would pick up and then drop off Student Prince and Heirloom beer to customers in the Dayton area.
After the brewery was sold in 1946, Vontz stayed in business and kept the Heidelberg name “to save on stationery and the cost of painting his trucks,” the company said.
Heidelberg really took off in 1959 when it bought the Cincinnati branch of Anheuser-Busch. “August Busch, Jr. had estimated the distributorship’s value at $54,000, but he was so impressed by Vontz’ determination to make Budweiser a success in Cincinnati that he sold the distributorship for $25,000,” the company said.
Thanks to mergers and acquisitions, Heidelberg now has facilities in Cincinnati, Dayton, Evendale, Cleveland, Toledo, Columbus, Lorain, Norwalk, Youngstown and Hebron, Ky. It serves 26,000 retailers in the two states and distributes brands ranging from Budweiser to Great Lakes to Thirsty Dog in its various markets.
Overall, the company has 13,500 products, including wines and liquors. Heidelberg also remains a family-owned business with third and fourth-generations of the Vontz and Miller families involved in the daily operation.