A Story of Success

Anheuser-Busch finds a strong partner in Walling Distributing Company 

In 1962, when beer giant Anheuser-Busch decided to expand its presence in Southwest Virginia by opening up a distributorship in Bristol, Virginia, there was no shortage of eager applicants. An Anheuser-Busch franchise was a businessman’s dream, offering a long-term opportunity to become a partner with the largest brewing company in America. Would-be entrepreneurs from all across the mountainous southwest corner of the Commonwealth lined up for the interview of a lifetime. 

William W. “Bud” Walling was one of those applicants. A Bristol native who had worked alongside the owners of the new Bristol Motor Speedway to bring NASCAR to town, Walling had long excelled in sales and advertising. Anheuser-Busch officials recognized the extraordinary “people” skills that distinguished this young man from the crowd of hopeful franchisees. Impressed by his passion for selling, they eagerly awarded Mr. Walling the Southwest Virginia distributorship.

Along with his wife and five employees, Bud Walling – then in his early 40s and the father of three – opened Walling Distributing Company in a small warehouse on Morrison Boulevard in Bristol, Virginia. Lois Walling was an active partner with her husband, a strong organizer who played a key role in performing the behind-the-scenes duties critical to survival in the business environment. The company was incorporated in 1963, beginning with three sales routes.

During that decade, beer reclaimed its original social position as a universal beverage; it was no longer a drink just for the working man. With a rapidly-expanding line of Anheuser-Busch products, Walling Distributing began growing its customer base, hiring additional employees,  adding sales routes – and eventually moving into a larger facility near the original building. The company moved to its current location on Walling Road in Bristol, Virginia, in 1973.

Sound business plan fosters growth and achievements

Bud Walling passed away in 2003 at the age of 82. His sons, Mark and Jeff Walling, have continued the same sound business plan and practices that were the foundation for their father’s success. Today, Walling Distributing is a respected mainstay in the Bristol community, having nearly quadrupled the size of its facilities. The family-owned business employs more than 50 people, including administrative, sales, graphics/printing, warehouse and operations staff. Mark Walling serves as president; Jeff Walling is vice president. Their brother, Challen Walling, is an attorney in Bristol and shares ownership in the company. 

Walling Distributing’s achievements are noteworthy, having long ago reached a major industry milestone of 1 million cases in 1988. The company now distributes more than 70 percent of the beer sold in southwestern Virginia, and its market share is among the top 10 in the United States. That territory includes eight counties – Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Washington, Wise and a portion of Smyth – an area three times the size of the state of Rhode Island. From three brands and a few package sizes in 1962, Walling’s inventory has expanded to include approximately 160 different packages of 35 brands of beer. 

 

Walling’s diverse product offerings feature a full line of Anheuser-Busch products, energy drinks and a growing line of craft beers. Brands include Bud Light, Budweiser, Natural Light and Busch beers; Busch NA and O’Doul’s non-alcoholic beers; Among many others. Products from Highlands Brewery in Asheville, N.C., and Starr Hill Brewery in Charlottesville, Va., are among the company’s line of craft beers. 

A responsible corporate citizen gives back to Southwest Virginia

Walling Distributing Company is proud to be a generous corporate citizen in the Bristol community. The company participates in sponsorships of a number of music festivals each year, including Rhythm & Roots Reunion on historic State Street in Bristol, which attracts tens of thousands of local fans as well as tourists from 36 states and eight foreign countries. 

The company lends its support to the summertime Abingdon Blues Festival, featuring music concerts on West Main Street in Abingdon, Va.; and the Highlands Jazz Festival, an annual event also held in Abingdon.

Additional community involvement includes participation in Appalachian Trail Days in Damascus, Va., the largest annual gathering of hikers in the United States – and the annual weekend cleanups at South Holston Lake, where volunteers meet to clear debris from nearly 170 miles of shoreline. Walling Distributing regularly provides speakers for community seminars on responsible drinking and related issues and for 25 years sponsored the popular Christmas tree lighting ceremony in downtown Bristol. The company also donates discarded aluminum cans to Holly Help, a local organization that recycles aluminum to fund the spaying and neutering of dogs and cats.

Walling has been pleased to host the world-famous Budweiser Clydesdales in unforgettable appearances in the Bristol area. The majestic Clydesdale horses continue to delight audiences of all ages.

Strong values and customer service continue to be a winning formula

As a tribute to their parents and the legacy they established, the Walling brothers remain committed to the principles that formed the blueprint for success from the beginning. The highest level of customer service is their trademark.

The company’s success can be traced to a few additional basic factors, which include dedication, hard work and well-rounded skills of its employees. A strong culture of teamwork is the foundation of the company. 

Walling operates on a peddle-sales system. Calling on customers at least twice a week, the representatives maintain an electronic 52-week history of the customer’s orders. From that data, the driver completes a list of inventory needed and provides on-the-spot delivery. 

The company’s success has not gone unnoticed. Named the Anheuser-Busch Wholesaler of the Year in the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1992, Walling and its employees continue to garner national and regional recognition in such areas as sales volumes, distribution and new product introductions.

Our greatest asset is our people 

The company’s management team consists of Jeff Johnson, operations manager; Albert Cooper III, controller; Brian Anderson, sales manager; John Manis, key accounts manager; and Ronnie Kingsley, warehouse manager. They are a close-knit group, all natives of the Bristol area or neighboring counties. Employees at Walling Distributing Company – from office staff to warehouse personnel and driver/salesmen – appreciate the family-owned atmosphere and the open-door policy of top management. They genuinely enjoy working as a team and feel they are part of a “family.”    

The future for Walling Distributing Company looks promising. The Wallings will continue to focus on customer service, build relationships that produce new business, earn the respect of employees and customers, and lead a company that consistently “gets it right.” They expect sales volumes and market share to continue on an upward trend – in traditional beers, craft beers and other beverage products. 

Bud Walling would be proud.