Georgia Wholesaler Uses Mickey Retrofits For the ‘Whole 9 Yards’
United Distributors, Inc., is already Georgia’s largest alcohol beverage distributor with distribution centers in Smyrna – its headquarters city – Albany and Savannah. Even more impressive, the company is one of the highest volume beverage distributors in the entire United States, and one of the only wholesalers in the country that “represents, warehouses and distributes material volumes of all 3 categories of beverage alcohol (wine, spirits and beer) through a centralized location.”
Still, United Distributors has set its sights even higher. Its mission is to be “the most successful corporation in the beverage distribution industry.” To reach that lofty goal, the 4th generation family-owned business is absolutely committed to marketplace innovation, superior market management and the highest levels of customer service as 3 of its top corporate priorities.
Three years ago, United’s Delivery Manager for the Savannah branch, Aaron Morris, made a move that embodied all 3 priorities of innovation, market management and customer service.
He explains that while the Savannah division’s secondary markets of Brunswick and Statesboro “account for a fair amount of keg business, it’s not really enough to warrant a dedicated keg truck.” When you consider the 60 to 90 minutes of travel time, and the cost of another truck and driver, “you’re talking about a significant expense for one product category. We needed a way to service our customers in these areas with all the packages they need, the whole 9 yards – packaged and keg beer, wine and spirits.”
However, United’s flagship brewery, MillerCoors, requires that its kegs be hauled in refrigerated bays, which ruled out the possibility of a conventional sideloader.
United called on Robert Badely, General Manager of Mickey Truck Bodies’ Southeast Reconditioning/Service Center in Ocala, FL, to turn 2 conventional 16-bay packaged beer trailers into unique combo units that would accommodate “the whole 9 yards.” The retrofits can handle 30-plus kegs in 6 half-bays – 3 on each side of the trailer – and “in the neighborhood” of 200 to 300 cases of packaged product. “Over half of the stops we make every day in our outer markets are to on-premise accounts – bars and restaurants – that call for packaged beer, kegs, wine and spirits,” says Morris. “So these trucks are perfect, and they are much more economical for us.”
Today, all the keg beer accounts in the outer markets of Brunswick and Statesboro are serviced from one of the 2 retrofitted Mickey combo trailers, and “they’re holding up very well,” according to Morris. The trailers, one a 1998 model and the other a ’99, log 18,000 to 20,000 miles a year. “We’ve never had any problems with the trailers, before or after the retrofits, and we expect to get 10 to 15 more years of service out of them, maybe with a reconditioning job sometime during that span. The drivers love them because they’re easy to work from – the keg bays are only 2.5 to 3 feet off the ground so they don’t have a problem getting the kegs off. We load the packaged beer in the lowest bay space available and we don’t use the bays above the keg doors unless we have to. Drivers don’t have any problem working from these trailers.”
Morris feels it would be hard to beat a retrofitted unit, even with a new trailer. “A 10-year-old Mickey trailer with an all-aluminum frame can’t rust, so it will never go bad as long as you keep the unit serviced,” he explains. “Put a $30,000 retrofit into it, new bay doors, king pin and tunnel, add kegs bays, paint job and new decals, and you end up with $40,000 in a trailer that’s like a brand new unit. Or you could buy a new one and you’re looking at $80,000 to $115,000 depending on the configuration and features. It’s more cost effective for us to start with used equipment and go the retrofit route. We have been very happy with Mickey’s service and would definitely recommend giving their products a try. You won’t be disappointed.”