Virginia's largest Anheuser-Busch distributor buys J.F. Fick Inc.

John F. Fick III of J.F. Fick has sold his family’s beer distributorship in Spotsylvania. Fick’s grandfather started the company in the mid-1930s.

J.F. Fick Inc., the Fredericksburg region’s exclusive Anheuser–Busch beverage distributor, has been sold to the largest Anheuser–Busch distributor in the state.

Virginia Eagle Distributing Co., which is headquartered in Augusta County, purchased the 78-year-old, family-owned company under a non-disclosure agreement earlier this month.

President and CEO J.F. Fick III decided to sell because his children “didn’t want to continue on with the business in the same way he did, and he thought we would be good stewards of the business,” said Scott Heinz, chief operating officer of Virginia Eagle Distributing. “It was a strategic fit with our company. We overlap with a lot of the same retail customers.”

The purchase gives Virginia Eagle its seventh location around the state, and expands its service area to Fredericksburg and the counties of Caroline, King George, Prince William, Stafford and Spotsylvania. The purchase will help it compete with Premium Distributors of Virginia, which is based in Alexandria, he said. Premium is owned by Reyes Holdings, which operates one of the largest beer distribution organizations in the United States.

“In today’s beer world, you have to have economies of scale to be competitive,” Heinz said.

Virginia Eagle, like Fick, distributes domestic, imported and craft beers as well as cider, malt and non-alcoholic beverages. Its local craft beers include those from 6 Bears & A Goat Brewing Co. in Stafford and Richmond-based Strangeways Brewing, which has a location in Fredericksburg. A distribution agreement with Adventure Brewing, which has locations in Stafford and Spotsylvania, is in the works, Heinz said.

Virginia Eagle has eliminated the trucking company that was part of J.F. Fick because Anheuser–Busch has its own trucking service. It is keeping the remaining staff, upgrading the company’s technology, and will offer a more competitive health care policy beginning Jan. 1, he said.

Virginia Eagle will spend about $150,000 total on charitable donations in 2018, Heinz said, with $25,000 going to those in area J.F. Fick had serviced. The local beneficiaries will include the Marine Corps Historic Half in Fredericksburg.

“We have a tremendous affinity for veterans groups,” Heinz said. “Most of our donation dollars go to veterans groups. We have a strong belief that you just can’t do enough for veterans.”

Virginia Eagle is a relative newcomer compared with J.F. Fick. It started seven years ago with one warehouse in Verona, which is in Augusta County.

Fick dates back to March 6, 1936, when its founder and namesake turned a one-car garage behind a grocery in Triangle into a warehouse. He and a helper used an old pulpwood truck to deliver Budweiser and Michelob to his wholesale customers.

Three years later, beer was being shipped to J.F. Fick by rail from St. Louis and Newark, N.J., to Quantico. Sales to surrounding military bases would account for about half of its business during World War II, and a second route was added by the late 1940s.

By 1949, J.F. “Jack” Fick Jr. had joined his father in the family business, and he became its sole owner and president in 1958. The business continued to grow and move to larger and larger warehouses.

In 1973, it moved from Prince William County to Midway in Stafford County, where a 15,000-square-foot office and warehouse was built on a 9.5-acre tract. The company also dismantled its old warehouse and moved it there, where it became the fleet maintenance facility.

Jack Fick’s youngest son, Magruder Fick, joined the corporation as vice president in 1975, and the company celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1986 by getting Anheuser–Busch to bring one of its trademark Budweiser beer wagons and a team of Clydesdales to the Spotsylvania Mall for a guest appearance. Anheuser–Busch Clydesdales also were a highlight of the company’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2011.

By then, John F. Fick III was the company’s president and his sister, Nancy Fick Campbell, was executive vice president. They’d seen the need for even more warehouse space, and moved the company to its current 54,000-square-foot facility on six acres in the Four-Mile Fork Industrial Park in Spotsylvania County.

They also helped a number of charities, including The Mary Washington Hospital Foundation, Moss Free Clinic and the Marine Corp Heritage Foundation.

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Cathy Jett: 540/374-5407 cjett@freelancestar.com

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