CARS HOMES JOBS

Congressmen tour growing Saratoga Springs distributorship

Thursday, March 20, 2014
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— Beer consumption may be slowing, but a Saratoga Springs company that distributes the beverage across Northeastern New York is growing.

Saratoga Eagle Sales & Service last week acquired Bartyzel Inc. of Amsterdam, adding customers in Fulton, Montgomery and Schoharie counties and increasing its employee count by about 20 to roughly 200.

On Wednesday, two area congressmen, Paul Tonko and Bill Owens, toured the $12 million Saratoga Eagle distribution facility in the Grande Industrial Park, where cases of common and craft brews are stocked 40 feet high. The facility opened in 2009 with 150,000 square feet of storage space and includes such features as solar panels on the roof.

“It’s obviously a state-of-the-art facility,” said Tonko, D-Amsterdam, in whose district the beverage warehouse is located.

The territory served from the Saratoga facility covers 12 counties and stretches to the Canadian border, including most of the 21st District represented by Owens, D-Plattsburgh.

He said the firm is good for the North Country economy and appears to be well-run.

“There’s sales-tax revenue every time somebody buys a six-pack,” Owens said.

But overall beer consumption is down, with The Beer Institute reporting that national consumption declined from 213 million barrels to 208 million between 2006 and 2012.

That trend is now showing up locally, Saratoga Eagle President Jeff Vukelic said, perhaps due to the weather or the restoration last year of the full Social Security payroll tax.

“One thing is the economy, the other is that people aren’t drinking as much as they used to, not going out to drink,” Vukelic said.

The company has responded by carrying more nonalcoholic beverages. “Energy drinks, like Monster and Red Bull, are still growing,” he said.

The company also is testing the distribution of hard liquor and wine.

The company’s product lines include Anheuser-Busch-InBev, LaBatt, Genesee, Davidson Brothers, Red Hook and other beers. In addition to nonalcoholic energy drinks, it distributes Poland Springs and Perrier waters.

The Bartyzel acquisition brings Saratoga Eagle the assets of a third-generation Amsterdam company founded in 1933. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“Our two organizations have a great deal in common, and this acquisition will not have a dramatic impact on the Bartyzel employees or its customers other than a new name and logo,” Vukelic said.

Vukelic is the fourth-generation of his family in the beverage-distribution business. Saratoga Eagle is part of Try-It Distributing of Buffalo.

Try-It came into the Capital Region in 2005 with its acquisition of Northern Distributing. It renamed the company and built the Saratoga facility to replace a Northern Distribution warehouse in Queensbury.

In 2010, Saratoga Eagle acquired Ruch Distributing of Albany and A&M Beverage of Malone, two smaller regional distributorships.

“In eight years, we’ve doubled our business,” Vukelic said.

The product stored in the chilled warehouse turns over at least every 15 days. This time of year, between 15,000 and 25,000 cases are moved every day, but beer consumption rises to between 30,000 and 40,000 cases per day in the summer, Vukelic said. “August is our biggest month,” he said.

Tonko and Owens toured Saratoga Eagle after spending part of the morning together in Johnstown, attending a rural economic development roundtable at Fulton Montgomery Community College where officials discussed rural broadband and small business needs.

“You want to see business prosper, and small business is the name of the game,” Tonko said. “Tours like this are about staying in contact.”

 
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