D. Bertoline sale completes ‘rags to riches’ Peekskill story


Downtown Peekskill was packed with visitors for the 75th Bertoline celebration

By Jim Roberts

D. Bertoline & Sons operated their four-generation family business in Peekskill for 90 years and while the business provided a livelihood for hundreds of employees over those nine decades, the corporate philosophy of giving back, to Peekskill and the people who worked at Bertoline, started back in the early days with Nick Bertoline. “It came from my father when he took over from his father Dominick,” said Dominick Bertoline, the president of the company since 1982.

This month the Bertoline company announced that the business is being sold to Dana Distributors, based in Goshen. The deal is expected to close on June 1. Bertoline is selling the exclusive distribution rights for Anheuser Busch products in Westchester and Putnam counties and other beer, wine and beverage lines to Dana. The sale includes a can-crushing operation in Buchanan that recycles aluminum. Bertoline distributes to more than 2,000 restaurant and retail store accounts. The company has about 85 employees and a fleet of 25 trucks. About three-quarters of the workers will stay with Dana in their Goshen offices. Drivers will run their routes from the Dana warehouse. The sales price was not disclosed.

“My father had the philosophy that we were always about the family and everything we did was to help struggling families. We’ve had people burned out of their home, just everyday life problems, and always we tried to be there for them. I think it’s served us very well,” Dominick Bertoline told the Herald this week.


The Bertoline family members (l to r) Ben, Jason, Chris, Jim, Dominick Sr., Dominick Jr., and Don Brophy (son-in-law) in their offices this week.  (Photo by Jim Roberts)

The Bertoline family has been a major supporter of community activities, providing financial support to the Hudson Valley Hospital, the fire department, ambulance corps, the Elks Club, the Hudson Valley Chamber and many other groups.

First deal stopped by Covid

Dominick Bertoline said a deal with Dana was negotiated in mid-2019 but before it closed the Covid pandemic shut down the country.

“When the pandemic hit around St. Patrick’s Day, I killed the deal. I wasn’t going to throw 115 employees into limbo in the middle of a pandemic.” The decimation of the restaurant industry during Covid was a big blow to the Bertoline business.

“It’s been a very slow recovery from the pandemic,” Bertoline said. “We have around 250 restaurants that did not re-open. People were buying the cheaper packages at chain stores impacting our profitability. Things were not going the way we hoped they would.”

Sales did not rebound as much as projected, so the company started to reduce its workforce through attrition, but longer-term trends also weighed on the decision to sell.

“The demographics of the area changed what I would call overnight, where normally it would take 10 to 15 years,” Bertoline said. “The shift came around 2020 when the Hispanic population went from 18 percent to now about 33 percent.

“Quite frankly, we didn’t have the brands that appealed to the Hispanic market. One of the biggest distributors in the country is Manhattan Beer and they have a very good product line for the Hispanic population so the Modelo and Coronas of the world were gaining market share while we were trying to hold our own and losing as well.”

Property on the market

So when Fred Dana called to revive the purchase the Bertolines said yes. Dominic and his cousin Jimmy and their junior partner Dominick Jr. took the offer. Dominick Jr. will stay on as sales manager as will other members of the family.

“It just seemed like there was a little too much on the horizon for me to stay around much longer,” Dominick said. The challenge of operating in New York was also a factor in the decision. “The cost of doing business in the state of New York is just criminal. Taxes are being raised every year while gas and diesel costs just keep going up.”

Bertoline estimates it can take another 12 months to totally wind down the business. The next step is to sell the 5.5-acre property on John Walsh Boulevard that includes office space and a 75,000-square-foot warehouse. “We just started handing out letters to customers announcing the sale to Dana and I’ve already received three offers for the property,” he said.

From rags to riches

The Bertoline story in Peekskill started with rags and led to riches. Dominick Bertoline’s great-grandfather came here from Italy in the late 1800s and sold rags from his cart all around the town.

After Prohibition ended, he sold beer from his truck and a new business was born. The family even used rags to build barstools and opened “The Rag Inn” on Water Street.

As business expanded, bigger space was taken for Water Street warehouses. The company bought the property on John Walsh Boulevard for its current home and moved there in 1985, growing from 5,000 square feet to the 75,000-square-foot space. In 1976 there were 11 employees, eight of them Bertoline family members.

The property on John Walsh Boulevard is proving attractive to potential buyers. (Photo by Jim Roberts)

Bertoline was one of the oldest and largest employers in Peekskill, selling product to small delis, bars and restaurants and hotels and supermarkets throughout Westchester and Putnam counties.

The new operator, Dana Distributors, Inc., was founded by Frederick C. Dana, Sr. in 1970 and incorporated in Orange County, NY with Budweiser, Michelob and Piels franchises. They operated out of the old Sweeny Bottling Works building in Middletown. Fred Dana, Jr. took over as president in 2013. Dana Distributors sells over three million cases annually.

Bertoline found the perfect synergy to match growing their business through helping the community. A big celebration in 2008 marking the company’s 75th anniversary brought thousands to the downtown with a parade featuring the famed Anheuser Busch Clydesdales and a packed-house show at the Paramount. All those visitors bought lots of Budweiser and rang the registers for downtown restaurants.

The Bertoline family’s impact was felt through many different avenues. “When I heard the news of the sale of the company, I fondly remembered working with the Bertoline family for nearly 40 years, ranging from their sponsorship of the annual Jan Peek 10K Race through Peekskill and Cortlandt, to the times they brought the Word Famous Clydesdale Horses to Peekskill, first for Governor Pataki’s victory parade and then a return visit for their own 75th anniversary,” said Bill Powers, former Executive Director of the Chamber of Commerce and the current BID Executive Director.

The Bertoline family at their 75th anniversary celebration in 2008.

“They also supported many other events and organizations, including those involving children, but insisted that their support remain anonymous since they did not want the appearance of promoting alcohol to kids. There will never be another family business like the Bertolines again in Peekskill,” Powers said.

The family legacy of giving lives on in the memory of Tommy Bertoline, who died of cancer in 2013 at age 58. The Thomas R. Bertoline Youth Athletic Foundation, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, raises money in support of community sports and a memorial golf tournament has raised thousands of dollars over the years for scholarships awarded to graduating seniors at area high schools from Croton, Hen Hud, Lakeland, Peekskill, Putnam Valley and Walter Panas.

“The Bertoline family has been serving beer in Peekskill for over 100 years,” said Deb Milone the longtime former president of the Hudson Valley Gateway Chamber of Commerce and now a licensed real estate salesperson with United Real Esate.

“As a family business, they gave back to their community they called home both philanthropically and civically. It is truly an end to an era. As Dominick and Jim move onto the next chapter of their lives, let us all raise a glass and say thank you – ‘This Buds for you!’”

“We did a lot in this community for charitable reasons because we always wanted to try and improve the quality of life here,” said Dominick. “That’s one of the biggest things we wanted to do. We treated all our employees like they were members of the Bertoline family. When you got hired you became a Bertoline, not just an employee and that has served us very well over the 90 years.”

Jim Roberts is a freelance business reporter based in Peekskill. 

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