Bama Budweiser marks 70 years of serving Selma community

Published 10:24 am Monday, July 3, 2017

Bama Budweiser opened in Selma in 1947, and the company is celebrating their 70th anniversary this year.

From starting out at a location on Water Avenue to moving to Oak Street and then to their current location at Craig Field, Bama Budweiser has continued to serve the communities of the Black Belt.

“I think that’s the important thing about being here for 70 years,” said Steve South, general manager of Bama Budweiser. “Having an Anheuser-Busch distributorship here in Selma, for a town this small, is unheard of. You don’t hear about Anheuser-Busch being in a town of this size.”

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South said the company owes its success to the communities in which they serve.

“The reason we’ve been able to stay here all of these years is that we have a very loyal base,” South said. “Our market share is 80 percent. It’s the highest in the state of any Anheuser-Busch distributorship.”

The company is the sole beer distribution location in the county, but it didn’t start off that way.

“When I started in the beer business, there were four beer distributorships here. The other three have combined into one and moved to Montgomery,” South said. “When there was four, the business was kind of split four ways, and we started making ground and getting stronger and stronger.”

Don Perry operates a forklift at Bama Budweiser.

Bama Budweiser serves Dallas, Wilcox, Perry, Lowndes and Clarke counties. At the company, they get inventory in, sale to various stores in their jurisdiction, take orders, create the orders, package and deliver to the stores. On location, they also have a mechanic shop, oil for the trucks and Jay Pilcher, who creates and prints signs for promotional purposes.

“We put Anheuser-Busch products on people’s shelves. We put the products on sale and give them point of sale material,” South said. “We cover a lot of space. We go to all four points of each county.”

South said he takes pride in his employees and how they interact with customers.

“One thing that I’ve always taken pride in is if you see a Budweiser employee in your store, you’re going to see somebody that’s professional, dressed well, clean shaven,” South said.

“I’ve been in the beer business 37 years, Eddy Ross, our sales manager has been in it for 32 years. All of our management team has been here 20 plus years. Most of our employees have a lot of time. We have a very small turnover. Our employees have been with us for a long time.”

South said they average about 37 to 38 employees, and one of the reasons they have such a small turnover rate is because of how well the employees are treated and because of the owner, Mark Schilleci.

“When I went to work for Bama Budweiser … I made $5 an hour. I stayed here, the company has treated us well and given me great benefits,” South said. “If a young man wants to stay in Selma, this is a great place to work. We don’t have a lot of turnover because it is such a good place to work.”

South said he loves working for Bama Budweiser and plans to continue his work there.

“I know people graduating college that can’t find what we have and what we offer here at Bama Budweiser,” South said. “It’s a great place to work.”

Joe Dailey works to wrap shipments at Bama Budweiser.

The company started out on Water Avenue, moved to Oak Street and then moved out to Craig Field in 1992.

“We had outgrown the Water Avenue location. It was set up for maybe one or two trucks, and then we went to Oak Street, it was set up for have three route trucks,” South said. “When we moved out here … it was set up to where we could handle 10 trucks because we were growing by leaps and bounds.”

South said the company is a big part of Selma and Dallas County, from providing jobs to people to donating product for various events and helping raise money for different organizations.

“I love Selma. This is a company that’s very supportive of the town,” South said. “Not only in Dallas County, but the other four counties also. If you go to any event, whether it be the Barbecue on the Green, the Wild Turkey Federation, or the Ducks Unlimited or the Marion Rodeo, the products you’ll be able to drink are Anheuser-Busch because we donate products.”

Products are not the only thing the company has donated recently.

“Last year, Mark Schilleci donated the Oak Street building to the Selma Area Food Bank, who needed a home,” South said. “I thought it was a terrific thing.”

South said he is just happy to be able to help provide jobs to hard-working employees that they value at the distribution facility.

“These are local people that work at this location,” South said. “It provides a lot of jobs. A lot of good people have worked here. Some people had moved on to other jobs within the city, some have moved out of town, but if you start and you stay with it, you’ll have a long career here.”

In 2008, Bama Budweiser sold around 900,000 cases in a year. Now, they’re averaging about 800,000 cases a year, but South said they continue to maintain their 80 percent market share.

Bama Budweiser has had three locations in Selma — on Water Avenue, on Oak Street and now at Craig Field.

“Things have changed over the Black Belt. The population decline in the Black Belt has hit us hard. In the last nine years, all five of our counties has suffered a lot of population loss,” South said. “We’re not selling as much as we did in 2008, but our market share is maintained the same. So we’re still doing a great job. If you maintain an 80 percent market share you’re doing a great job, but we can’t do anything about the population loss.”

Overall, South said Bama Budweiser loves Selma and the surrounding cities and they plan to continue serving them for as long as they are welcome to do so.

“The people here have always been loyal to us,” South said. “We’re happy in Selma and we plan on staying here for a long time.”