Joseph C. Placek earned a degree as an electrical engineer during the Great Depression. He couldn’t find a job, so he changed direction and founded Commercial Distributing, a wholesale fruit and vegetable business on Elm Street in Westfield.
A few years later, Joseph pivoted again—from vegetable warehouse to a beer, wine and spirits wholesaler. After outgrowing the space on Elm Street, he built a new facility on South Broad Street.
The business still operates out of the same 97,500-square-foot building—with a new 7,500-square-foot cooler added in 2004, the exact year Placek’s grandson Mark took over ownership of the family enterprise from his father, Richard. He held the lead role since 1978, often working in tandem with his late brother, Gary.
Commercial Distributing sells products no other distributor is licensed to sell, including those made by Molson, Coors, Miller Lite, Sam Adams, and Smirnoff. “We carry an impressive variety of craft brands, both locally and nationally. Our warehouse carries over 2,000 different items from over 70 different brands,” Placek says.
Recently, the company released innovations from White Claw as well as Heineken. The White Claw Vodka Soda is available in four new flavors—watermelon, peach, wild cherry and pineapple - and in a variety pack. Heineken Silver, also new, is a low-calorie beverage for the health-conscious consumer.
Mark Placek says the family has always placed the highest value on quality customer service and providing employees with generous benefits and opportunities for growth, making Commercial Distributing a business that stands out in the region.
“We are dedicated to our co-workers who exhibit honesty, pride, passion and professionalism, and are focused on delivering complete customer satisfaction and offering extraordinary products,” Placek says.
As a testament to employee satisfaction and longevity, Mike Holl started at Commercial Distributing as a helper in the warehouse in 2001. He moved up the ranks over the years to driver, warehouse supervisor, field sales manager, and, in early January, to his current leadership role as operations manager.
He says the business delivers its products to 1,100 bars, restaurants and clubs in all four counties of Western Mass, as well as to 400 package stores in the region. It has a fleet of 26 trucks and around 105 employees in roles from driver to inventory, shipping, HR, marketing, and management. “We recognize that consumers demand variety, and we strive to offer the brands that fulfill that demand,” Holl says.
Customers appreciate Commercial Distributing because it is reliable and supportive. “We offer a full-service graphics department, through which we help customers create signage and displays at no cost,” Placek says. “We help organize free tasting events to support our products as well as provide free promotional materials that customers can use to entice their clientele.”
Holl says, “We strive to be the best in the service area. If on Thursday you run out of Blue Moon on draft, you can call us, and we’ll make sure to get it to you before the weekend.”
Small orders aren’t a problem either. He adds: “You can order as little as two cases, and we’ll get it to you.” Unlike other distributors, Commercial does not charge a delivery fee and never implemented a gas fee, even when fuel prices were at an all-time high. Placek said there have been many milestones over the years. In 1954, the company became a Miller Brewing Company distributor. In 1999, Commercial Distributing purchased Fahey Beverage, a Miller distributor in Berkshire County, allowing distribution in that county for the first time. And, in 2003, the business purchased Coors distributor, Burke Beverage, and acquired the Coors brands from United Liquors.
Business success has also translated into solid community partnerships; Commercial Distributing takes part in many annual events such as The Big E and Festa, the Portuguese festival in Ludlow. Sponsorships include everything from youth sports teams to Kiwanis, local police departments, golf tournaments and Westfield State Athletics. Commercial is also heavily involved with the Boys and Girls Club of Westfield. Commercial Distributing and its products will be featured at this year’s air show at Westfield-Barnes Regional Airport in May.
“This is a great family business for whom to work,” Holl says. “Commercial has paid for 100 percent of my family’s health insurance for over 20 years, as well as a company paid pension. I don’t know of too many businesses that do that for their employees.”
“We have a working partnership—with customers and the community,” he adds. “We like to make sure everyone is happy.”
If you'd like to learn more about Commercial Distributing, please visit commercialdist.com.
Article by Janice Beetle
Photography by Hannah Josephine Photography
Originally published in Westfield City Lifestyle