Coke bottling plant to be sold

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2002

Coca-Cola Bottling Company's general manager decided to retire and none of Chuck Wilson's children were around to take the manager's place.

So Wilson decided to sell the Austin facility that has been in his family since his grandfather started it.

Midwest Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Eagan will purchase the plant later this month.

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Midwest Coca-Cola operates distribution centers in Duluth, Eagan, Mankato, Mason City, Iowa, LaCrosse, Wis. and Eau Claire, Wis.

"We kind of fit right into the middle of it," Wilson said of Midwest's distribution centers. "It seemed like the natural thing to do."

Both the Austin and Rochester centers will remain in those towns. Some of the 30 employees at the companies have interviewed with Midwest Coca-Cola and most of them will be hired, Wilson said.

Employees were told of his decision to sell at a meeting. Shock summed up their reaction, he said.

"They've been looking at me getting older and older," Wilson, 80, said. "It's gone quite well. I've kept them apprised as to how things are going."

Wilson got into the business in 1947 and has "been here ever since."

Wilson said he will miss being involved in the company. He said if he had a successor to the general manager position, he would not have sold it.

"I really don't know what I'm going to do," Wilson said. "I'll miss it."

Community leaders say they will miss Wilson because he and the company have been so involved in the community.

"Chuck has been such a great member of the business community for so many years," said Sandy Forstner of the Austin Chamber of Commerce. "He's supported every aspect of this town. It's a landmark business in town."

Tuesday was the first he has heard of the sale and but thought it was good that the employees probably will be rehired.

Mayor Bonnie Rietz does not know what the ramifications of the sale will be, but said Wilson was very generous at city events.

"Chuck has been great to our city," Rietz said.

She isn't sure how much involvement Coca-Cola will have now that the owner is based in Eagan.

Kevin Morris, vice president of public affairs for Midwest Coca-Cola, said that the company is excited to serve customers in the Rochester and Austin areas.

"We feel its a great fit with our companies," Morris said.

Morris said he will not have any information about the cost of purchasing the company or the status of the employees until the sale is final.

"We look forward to meeting and working with employees of the company," he said.

Midwest also plans to be involved in the Austin and Rochester communities.

"We pride ourselves in being part of the local communities we serve," Morris said.

Cari Quam can be reached 434-2235 or by e-mail at