Beer distributor sold to Effingham firm

CHAMPAIGN — Orange & Blue Distributing Co. has a new owner, but the Champaign beer distributor's name will remain.

The company, based at 2902 Lager Drive near the intersection of Springfield Avenue and Duncan Road, was sold Aug. 30 to Effingham-based Koerner Distributor.

That company's president and CEO, Paul Koerner, said Tuesday that all the employees of Orange & Blue have been retained and the operation will continue to do business as Orange & Blue Distributing.

"There's a lot of capital in that name," he said.

Koerner Distributor is a beer, wine and spirits distributor that, before the acquisition, operated in 47 counties in central and southern Illinois.

Orange & Blue serves seven counties in East Central Illinois, two of which are also served by Koerner. As a result, Koerner now operates in 52 of the state's 102 counties.

Orange & Blue has about 45 full-time-equivalent employees, and Koerner had about 175 full-time-equivalent employees before the acquisition, he said.

In a release, Koerner said Orange & Blue has "an outstanding group of associates who have performed at very high levels in the beer-distributing business."

Koerner said he and W. Allen Everette, president of Orange & Blue, are longtime friends who have both been active in the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois.

The beer-distributing industry has been consolidating, Koerner said, and the two men agreed that if Orange & Blue was ever for sale, the two companies' cultures and missions would mesh well.

That situation came about after Peer Pedersen, a Chicago attorney who was one of Orange & Blue's owners, died in January.

Everette said in a release that Orange & Blue is "proud to become a division of Koerner Distributor. We share a similar vision and commitment to the brands we offer and believe strongly in excellent customer service and social responsibility."

Koerner said he is considering adding three or four positions to help sell beer in Champaign. He would particularly like to pursue the marketing of craft beers in this area, something Koerner has vigorously done in its existing territory.

Koerner said Koerner Distributor was founded in 1982 when he and his father, mother and brother acquired Jul Fischer Distributors, a company his father worked for since 1962.

Koener Distributor sells an array of domestic, imported and craft beers, including MillerCoors, Boston Beer, Heineken, Corona and Diageo products, and also wine, spirits and non-alcoholic drinks including Red Bull.

The company has grown to become one of the largest distributors of beer, wine, liquor and nonalcoholic beverages in the state. Headquartered in Effingham, it also has offices in Carterville and New Baden.

Orange & Blue — formerly known as Hirschfeld Distributing and Champaign Distributing — traces its origins to 1898. Its operation was interrupted by Prohibition. It was operated by three generations of Hirschfelds and then sold twice, the latter time to Pedersen.

Everette was hired as the company's chief financial officer in 1979 and became president and part-owner in 1987. Both he and Koerner are past presidents of the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois.

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