The origin of The Charmer Sunbelt Group began in the 1930s and 1940s as two separate corporations: Charmer Industries (originally Blue Crest Wine & Spirits Corp., 1944) and Sunbelt Beverage Corporation (originally McKesson Wines & Spirits, 1934).
History of Charmer Industries
The Merinoff/Drucker family began its tenure in the beverage alcohol distribution business in 1944, when Charles Merinoff Sr. founded Blue Crest Wine & Spirits Corp. in Brooklyn, New York. Over the next few decades, Charles Sr. expanded Blue Crest through the acquisitions of Ben Perlow (1956) and Universal Liquors (1957). In 1959, Charles Sr.’s son, Herman I. Merinoff, joined the family business; he would later serve as Chief Executive Officer. In 1966, Blue Crest Wine & Spirits Corp. changed its name to Charmer Industries Inc. (a derivative of CHARles MERinoff) and continued its growth strategy by acquiring Distilled Brands.
During the 1980s, the family acquired several additional companies including Standard Wine and Liquor (1981), Connecticut Distributors Inc. (1986), Service Liquor Distributors (1987), and Washington Wholesale Liquor Company (1987).
In 1991, to serve the growing number of New York retailers more effectively, the New York operation was separated into two organizations, one in metropolitan New York and the other in Upstate New York. Charmer Industries remained as the metropolitan New York organization, while Service Universal became the Upstate operation.
In 1994, the family purchased an interest in Bacchus Importers, which had been in operation since 1985 in Baltimore, Maryland.
History of Sunbelt Beverage Corporation
In 1988, Sunbelt Beverage Corporation, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, was created through a leveraged buyout of the McKesson Wine & Spirits Wholesale Company, an organization that had been distributing wine and spirits since the repeal of prohibition in 1934. Raymond R. Herrmann Jr., now Chairman Emeritus of The Charmer Sunbelt Group, managed McKesson Wine & Spirits for 13 years until the McKesson Corporation, the nation’s first drug distributor, divested from the alcohol business to focus primarily on healthcare. Subsequently, Ray privatized the division under the name Sunbelt Beverage Corporation, distributing wine and spirits in seven states. Following various transactions from 1988 to 1992, Sunbelt became statewide distributors with Arizona Beverage Distributing in Arizona, Premier Beverage Company in Florida, Churchill Distributors in Maryland, and Heritage Beverage Company in South Carolina.
In 1993, a joint venture between Heritage Beverage Company and Ben Arnold Company created The Ben Arnold – Heritage Beverage Company of South Carolina. The name was later changed to its current name, The Ben Arnold – Sunbelt Beverage Company of South Carolina.
In 1995 Sunbelt purchased Spatola Wines, establishing Capital Wine & Spirits Company in Pennsylvania as a wholly owned subsidiary. The company expanded further with the acquisition of Superior Wine & Spirits making Capital one of the largest brokers in Pennsylvania.
In 1996 Sunbelt expanded its presence in Maryland and the District of Columbia with the acquisition of Quality Brands and International Distributors, operating under the Washington Wholesale Liquor Company name.
Origin of The Charmer Sunbelt Group
The history of these two storied and successful companies – Charmer Industries and Sunbelt Beverage Corporation – converged in 1994 when the Merinoff/Drucker family acquired a controlling interest in Sunbelt. By 1997, the last of the outstanding shares in Sunbelt were acquired by the Merinoff/Drucker family.
In 1998, Sunbelt established its headquarters in New York, combining all of the distributorships in which the Merinoff/Drucker family had an interest into The Charmer Sunbelt Group.
In 2002, Charles Merinoff became Vice Chairman and Chief Executive Officer while his father Herman Merinoff and Ray Herrmann served as Co-Chairmen. In 2011, The Charmer Sunbelt Group (CSG) named Charles as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer and Ray as Chairman Emeritus.
The Charmer Sunbelt Group Continues to Grow
CSG has continued to expand through strategic partnerships in various states. In 1998, CSG partnered with the Young family in brokerage houses operating as the Alabama Sales Company and the Mississippi Sales Company. That same year a joint venture between CSG’s Arizona Beverage Distributing Company and Cactus Beverage Company of Arizona (owned by the Glazer family of Texas) formed Alliance Beverage Distributing Company.
In 2000, CSG partnered with Beverage Distributors Corporation, a Colorado distributorship owned by the Obernauer family, to form Beverage Distributors Company.
In 2002, Churchill Distributors, the largest distributor in Maryland at that time, formed a joint venture with Reliable Liquors to establish Reliable Churchill. Later that year, CSG formed a joint venture in Delaware with Standard Distributing Co. to open First State Distributing Group, which would later merge with Century Wine & Spirits and Delaware Beverage to form United Distributors of Delaware.
In 2004, CSG partnered with Reitman Industries to form R&R Marketing of New Jersey.
Through a joint venture in 2006, CSG expanded into Virginia with Associated Distributors. In 2010, Associated significantly expanded its geographic footprint in Virginia when it acquired Virginia Distributing Company. In 2012, CSG acquired the remaining 50 percent interest in Associated.
In 2007, CSG and Peerless Importers combined their operations to form Empire Merchants in Metro New York, while Service Universal and Colony Wine & Spirits combined their operations in Upstate New York to form Empire Merchants North. These joint ventures were the largest single state distributor transactions in the history of the New York wine and spirits industry, making Empire Merchants the No. 1 distributor in market share for both wine and spirits in New York State.
In 2012, CSG acquired its partners’ interests in The Ben Arnold-Sunbelt Beverage Company of South Carolina, LP and Associated Distributors, LLC That same year, CSG formed Alliance Beverage Alabama, LLC and Alliance Beverage Mississippi, LLC with Glazer’s.
CSG will continue to grow to meet the needs of our suppliers and adapt to the changing environment of the wine, spirit and beer distribution industry. While growth is an important element of the business, we maintain a steadfast focus on our stated vision: To Be the Distributor of Choice.