The Brown History
Since 1919, Brown Distributing Company has grown into a beverage distribution business with combined sales of five million cases annually and serving in excess of 3,000 retailers with more than 200 employees.
In 1919, brothers Abraham and Isadore Brown formed a Richmond, VA-based soda-bottling business where they produced a cherry-flavored soft drink. The company soon grew to a Pepsi bottler/distributor serving the Richmond-Petersburg area.
The end of Prohibition in 1933 allowed Brown Distributing Company to add their first beer, MD-brewed “Wolf Beer” to their operation.
In 1935, August “Gussie” Busch, recognizing the Company’s growth, met with Abe Brown. Within a year the Company became the Anheuser-Busch wholesaler for the Richmond-Petersburg area. Around this same time, Abe’s son, Jacob Brown joined the business.
Toward the end of the 1940s, the Richmond and Petersburg businesses became separate entities, and in 1951 Abraham and Jacob formed Brown Distributing Company (BDC) in Richmond.
In 1969, Brown sold its Pepsi-Cola operation in order to focus on its beer distribution. During this period, Jacob’s son, Larry, was instrumental in expanding their business when they acquired an Anheuser-Busch franchise in Palm Beach County, Florida in 1984.
Brown Distributing acquired the Petersburg, VA-area Anheuser-Busch distribution operation in 2001, putting back together the original Pepsi bottling-operation footprint.
In 1999-2006, Larry’s sons, Reid and Jason, joined the family business, bringing with them a vision of diversification. The brothers saw an opportunity to better serve the needs of their customers through expanding the scope of products the company offered such as bottled water, tea, and energy drinks.
The Company acquired Legendary Distributing, a Richmond, VA start-up craft distribution company, which allowed Brown to start selling a variety of local and regional craft beers.
That same year, the new facility is completed at 7986 Villa Park and received an award for Best R&D, Flex, or Industrial Project by the Greater Richmond Association for Commercial Real Estate.
The Company helped create the Richmond Beer Elite, which provides an online forum for all members of the Richmond beer community, including competitive distributors and breweries. During that same time, BDC launched Taste The Local marketing program with the goal of getting local restaurants and retailers to highlight local breweries.
Later that year, BDC executed the first large-scale, locally focused craft beer event in Richmond at The Richmond 17th Street Farmers Market (Autumn Bottom Brews). Over the next year, BDC executed the first local beer and food truck rally, Brew-B-Que, Wing Ding, and other notable local events.
The signing of SB604 at Hardywood Park, which allowed retail sales of beer and sampling on the premises of Virginia breweries. This dramatically changed the structure of the Virginia beer industry and invoked a wave of brewery openings. During this time, BDC also worked with Virginia Brewers Guild to pass HJR 533, designating August as Virginia Craft Beer Month.
Later that year, the National Beer Wholesalers Association (NBWA) and Brewers Association (BA) recognized Brown Distributing’s efforts by presenting BDC the Craft Beer Distributor of the Year Award at Great American Beer Festival in Denver, CO.
BDC also expanded its Virginia distribution footprint to Northern Virginia (NoVA) with Hardywood and other local brands.
During the six-year period from 2010-2016, BDC successfully signed every local brewery in the Richmond area (12 at the time), making it the only wholesaler in the state (and possibly the country) to do so.
BDC celebrated 100 years of operating in Richmond and was commended by Senate Joint Resolution 419.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, BDC continued to service the needs of its customers without laying off or furloughing a single employee.
The Richmond-based, family-owned Brown Distributing Company has grown from a producer of a single cherry soda to a highly regarded beverage distribution business. We pride ourselves on having an eye toward the future by being the distributor of choice in Virginia.