What began as a job following returning home from the war became a lifelong passion not only for C.L. Fox, but for his son, Larry, who leads Fox Distributing in Shelby.
"My dad got out of the Korean War in 1954, and worked for Jiminy Roy Brown, a produce and beer distributor," said Larry Fox, president and CEO of Fox Distributing in Shelby. "In the late 50s, Anheuser-Busch asked them to separate the business, and Dad had the choice of which one he would go with and he decided to go with beer."
Fast forward to the late 1970s. Both Shelby and Rutherfordton passed alcohol sales during its elections, and C.L. asked if those areas could become part of his territory, Larry said.
"But Budweiser didn't want those areas to be added in with another," he explained. "In 1979, Dad asked again to have those areas assigned to him."
This time, the request was considered - but first C.L. would have to demonstrate a business model for working as an independent distributor. Using his stocks and retirement as collateral and creating a five-year marketing plan, C.L. displayed how he would create a beer distribution facility of his own.
"On Christmas 1979, Joe Cochran, who was the district manager for Anheuser-Busch for this area, called to let him know that it had been assigned to him," Larry said. "That was a pretty good Christmas present."
By April of 1980, Fox Distributing opened its doors with five employees. All remain with the company to this day.
"That first year we distributed 232,000 cases," Larry said. "We are on target this year to distribute 1.1 million."
In addition to the increase in cases, Fox Distributing now employs 36 people. The facility has also seen three expansions, Larry said - first out and then up.
"Technology has changed drastically since we began," he continued. "Years ago everything was done with pen and paper, but not anymore."
Pre-salesmen in the past would place orders using carbon paper. Now, they are equipped with tablet computers. Orders are submitted electronically to the warehouse for picking for delivery the next day.
Drivers deliver between 1,600 and 1,800 cases each day - an increase of 1,000 more than when the business first began.
"A good day used to be 800 cases," Larry explained. "Back in those days we had 8 trucks on the road, and now we are running 6."
Pre-sales have also added to the business' efficiency.
"Our side loader (a truck with doors that slide up) used to be all for peddle sales - a driver would drive up to a store and sell a store owner cases off the truck. If you came back with only 30 percent of the cases, it was a good day."
Now, everything loaded on a truck each day has already been sold.
Fox Distributing supplies stores in Cleveland, Rutherford, McDowell, Yancey and Mitchell counties. While Budweiser and Bud Light are the most commonly distributed items, it's not all that Fox Distributing offers.
"We also carry other breweries, some as far away as Hawaii," Larry said. Other products include non-alcoholic beverages like Sparkling Ice and V-8 for convenience stores.
Fox Distributing is also very community-minded, a decision Larry said is as much a personal decision as it is a business decision.
"You give back to make the place you live better," he said. "I don't know of many things that go on in Shelby that we don't have a hand in. Unfortunately, we do sometimes have to turn down taking part in events, but it's not something I like to do."
As part of the business' 35th anniversary, Fox Distributing arranged for the Budweiser Clydesdales to visit both Shelby and Forest City.
After being in the business for more than three decades, Larry said it is one that is rewarding.
"This is a very social business, and I've gotten to meet a lot of people," he said. "It's given me the opportunity to visit places I wouldn't have thought to go if not for this business."
For info on Fox Distributing, visit the business' website foxdistributing.com or search Fox Distributing Co. on Facebook.