On January 19, 1923, Harvey & Irma established H. W. Herrell Distributing Company. They distributed coal, ice, soda and beer for the local community. When they purchased the company, the only building they had to work with, was what they called the “Ice House”. The office work and business were run out of Harvey and Irma’s kitchen; in a small house on Imperial Main Street they resided in from 1923-1926.
During Prohibition, the firm sold soda and “Near-Beer”. Other items they supplied were: Grape Bouquet, Malt Nutrine, ginger ale, ice, coal; and you would also see them haul strawberries and gravel. When Prohibition ended, the Company returned to distributing Anheuser-Busch beer products.
Gradually, the Company began to grow. They started by building a one room office next to the residence of the Herrell’s, located on First and White Avenue (this house remains to this day). At that time, a 1947 Diamond T Stake Bed Truck and a 1947 Diamond T Pick-Up Truck were used for the deliveries.
As the Company continued its growth pattern, more construction of buildings was inevitable. They tore down the Ice House to expand the office area. They purchased ground to build a “garage” for the trucks; and with construction spanning from 1942-1946, this area later became the warehouse. The space was large enough for 3-4 trucks. They gradually added a loading dock, cooler space and additional storage area for the beer products.
During the war, when labor was at a premium, Harvey and Irma would load the beer or ice themselves. Irma would even take her turn delivering to places of business. When they needed help, their only employee, Mr. Herman “Hermy” Baum, would assist them.
At the end of World War II and a three-year stint as a professional baseball player with the St. Louis Browns, Mr. Donald C. Herrell returned to help his parents with their business. “Big Don” started working on the trucks loading and delivering beer to the retailers. His jobs also included delivering ice and shoveling coal. Under the direction of his parents, and working by their side, he learned the business. Don married Frances Kasten on June 28, 1947, and they were blessed with two children, Donald (Donnie) H. Herrell and Carol Ann Herrell-Schanz.
On August 16, 1968, Mr. Harvey Herrell passed away. At this time, Irma was still involved in the operations and decisions of the Company. With Don by her side, they lead the business to rapid growth over the next two decades. In 1983, along with employees and customers, they celebrated their 60th Anniversary. Simultaneously, the Company set a sales record of delivering more than 1,006,754 cases of Anheuser-Busch products to retailers. The six brands sold were: Budweiser, Budweiser Light, Michelob, Michelob Light, Busch and Natural Light. The local newspaper, “The Arnold Rocket”, ran a story commemorating the milestone event. Big Don was quoted, “We would like to thank the many retailers and consumers in Jefferson County for making 1983 truly a year for H. W. Herrell Distributing to remember”.
Sadly, Donald C. Herrell and Irma Herrell passed away in 1988 and 1989 respectively. Donald (Donnie) H. Herrell obtained the title of President in late 1989. During his tenure in the ‘90’s and Millennial decades, H. W. Herrell saw rapid growth and maintained one of the highest Anheuser-Busch market shares in the Nation. Selling nearly 1,800,000 total cases within the Jefferson County footprint, Donnie was compelled to expand the Office and Warehouse operations. In 2001, the Main Office was enlarged to include Sales & Marketing facilities; and in 2011, “state of the art” Warehouse construction included drive-thru capabilities, additional loading/unloading space and created freight/storage efficiencies.
Donnie Herrell managed the Company for years while it evolved and prospered. To this day, many tenured employees still refer to it as the “Glory Days”. At the young age of 63, Donnie passed away in 2013. He will always be remembered for his civic and causal involvement throughout the community.
After Donnie’s passing, Carol Ann Herrell-Schanz (third generation) was appointed President of H. W. Herrell and remains the majority owner. Chuck Herrell, long-tenured employee and cousin runs the “day-to-day” operations. He currently holds the title of Vice President/COO.
Today, the business and industry continue to change. H. W. Herrell still services the “Mom & Pop” Independents that made the foundation of the business, but the population growth has brought the “chain” retailer to the market. With the ever-changing consumer demand, the small company built on one primary Brewer and six beers, now encompasses an ever-growing portfolio with 20 suppliers, across 90 brands and 600 packages. H. W. Herrell has adapted and considers themselves as one of the top beverage distributors in the Jefferson County area.
What Harvey and Irma did as a team of two 95 years ago, now takes more than 50 full/seasonal employees to execute daily. The “core values” that Harvey & Irma instilled hold true to this day. As each H. W. Herrell generation has embraced these values over the decades, customer/consumer loyalty remains at benchmark levels. H. W. Herrell prides itself in providing quality Company & Union jobs which include some of the highest wages and benefits in Jefferson County. Employee retention has enabled the Company to maintain the best customer service, rapport and relationships within the retail industry.
In just a few short years, H. W. Herrell will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Nearly half the age of Jefferson County. We are proud to have withstood the test of time; and especially Prohibition. More importantly, we are proud to be a part of this community! Jefferson County…This Bud’s for you!