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Bernick's acquires Rohlfing Distributing

After more than 66 years and three generations of family ownership, Rohlfing Distributing of Duluth has sold its brand distribution rights to Bernick's.

From left: Fritz and Debbie Wrazidlo and Brian and Cheryl Spehar, the four owners of Rohlfing Inc., stand outside the facility in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood on a recent morning. Rohlfing has been owned by the same family since of 1951, but the owners have decided to sell the business to Bernick's. Rohlfing distributes beer and other beverages to many outlets in Duluth and the region. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com
From left: Fritz and Debbie Wrazidlo and Brian and Cheryl Spehar, the four owners of Rohlfing Inc., stand outside the facility in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood on a recent morning. Rohlfing has been owned by the same family since of 1951, but the owners have decided to sell the business to Bernick's. Rohlfing distributes beer and other beverages to many outlets in Duluth and the region. Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com
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After more than 66 years and three generations of family ownership, Rohlfing Distributing of Duluth has sold its brand distribution rights to Bernick's.

"We're excited to expand our portfolio, and achieve a greater service level to our customers in the community of Northeast Minnesota," Bernick's COO John Torgerson said.

The distribution rights includes the Coors portfolio of brands, along with Summit, Corona and Boston Beer Co. brands in a territory extending from the Hinckley area to the Canadian border. Bernick's also is acquiring Rohlfing's trucks and warehouse located in Duluth's Lincoln Park neighborhood.

All of Rohlfing's employees have been offered positions with Bernick's. Rohlfing co-owner Brian Spehar said that fact made the decision to sell much easier.

"We wanted to make sure everybody still had a job," Spehar said.

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Torgerson said that the deal was more of a two-way street that came down to timing.

"I think it was a mutual discussion that's based upon a long-term relationship that we had with Rohlfing Distributing," Torgerson said. "They felt it was an opportune time for them to sell their business, and Bernick's thought it was an opportune time to acquire it, so we came to a mutual agreement."

Rohlfing dates back to 1951; it expanded several times over the decades, including a 12,600-square-foot, $2 million expansion at its Lincoln Park facility in 2011-12.

Bernick's is a fifth-generation family-owned business, founded in 1916, that distributes a variety of soft drinks, beer and snacks. In addition to Duluth and its headquarters in Waite Park, Minn., it has facilities in Bemidji, Brainerd, the Twin Cities, and Willmar in Minnesota, as well as in Dresser, Wis.

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