WATERTOWN — River City Distributing Co. Inc. will be permanently closing its facility in Watertown, cutting more than 100 jobs.
In a letter to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD), River City said it is selling substantially all of its assets to Wisconsin Distributors (WDI LLC) of Sun Prairie.
The DWD reported Monday that the closing is expected to result in the permanent elimination of approximately 72 full-time and 35 part-time employees on or about March 31. It was not clear whether any of these jobs might be moved to WDI’s facilities in Sun Prairie and Appleton.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that River City President Don Kwapil, in the letter to the DWD, indicated that the jobs lost will include 21 sales positions, 20 service representatives and 15 part-time merchandiser jobs.
“The closure has been prompted by the company’s decision to sell substantially all of its assets to WDI,” Kwapil reportedly 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.”
Kwapil founded River City, located at 1224 Clark St., in 1981. It has been a distributor of Budwesier and other Anheuser-Busch products and 19 national craft beer brands, including Goose Island. The State Journal reported that its Wisconsin craft beers include New Glarus Brewing Co., O’so in Plover, Tyranena Brewing Co. in Lake Mills, Potosi Brewing Co. and 3rd Sign in Waunakee.
Last June, River City Distributing collaborated with MobCraft Beer, a crowdsourced brewery brewing monthly batches of beer submitted and voted upon by craft beer fans, to create Rhubarb IPA. MobCraft’s head brewer, Andrew Gierczak, developed the recipe based off the winning idea submitted by Richard Sjoberg of River City Distributing to incorporate rhubarb and hops.
Wisconsin Distributors serves more than 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, the State Journal reported. In 2000, the McCarville family established a majority interest in Wisconsin Distributors.
In 2002, Wisconsin Distributors built a warehouse based in Sun Prairie and closed facilities in Janesville, Spring Green and Fond du Lac. The company purchased Tri-County Distributors in Appleton in 2006.
Like River City, Wisconsin Distributors is a major Anheuser-Busch distributor in Wisconsin. The State Journal said the purchase will beef up the company’s craft portfolio from the state that is limited to products from Wisconsin Brewing Co. in Verona and Vintage Brewing Co. and One Barrel Brewing Co. both in Madison, according to the Wisconsin Distributor’s website.
“I hate to see River City Distributing close,” Watertown Mayor John David told the State Journal 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.”
Neither Casey Trudgeon, executive vice president and general manager at Wisconsin Distributors, nor Kwapil were able to be reached for comment late Monday.
Meanwhile, the South Central Workforce Development Area Rapid Response team said it would be offering services to the affected business and workers.
The DWD’s Dislocated Worker Program provides transition assistance to workers and companies affected by permanent worker layoffs.
The program’s local Rapid Response Teams help companies and worker representatives develop and implement a practical transition plan based on the size of the layoff event.
Workers affected by permanent layoff also may access basic re-employment services at no charge through the state’s Job Centers.
Some services, including training assistance, might be an option for some workers after enrolling in one or more of DWD’s workforce development programs.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported that River City’s sale marks the second high-profile change in distributor ownership during the past three months.
In October, Frank Beverage Group, based in Middleton, purchased Beer Capitol Distributing Co. in Sussex, creating a territory from La Crosse through Madison to the metropolitan Milwaukee area.
Frank Beverage’s 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.