Beer distributor moving out of downtown Chattanooga to new distribution center on I-75

Nearly 10 acres along I-75 at 5045 Summit Spring Way will soon be developed into a distribution warehouse for Cherokee Distributing Co. to replace their current downtown site. / Staff photo by Dave Flessner

Two years after acquiring one of Chattanooga's biggest beer distributors, Cherokee Distributing Co. is preparing to build a new distribution warehouse along Interstate 75 to help expedite delivery of its beer brands in Chattanooga and Cleveland.

The Knoxville-based Cherokee beer distributor, which acquired Carter Distributing Co. on Broad Street in downtown Chattanooga, has contracted with Patillo Construction Corp., in Atlanta to build a nearly 70,000-square-foot facility at just off of I-75 at exit 7 to relocate its Chattanooga distribution facility, which is now located at Broad and 13th Streets in downtown Chattanooga.

"Hopefully, we will be moving some dirt in the next couple of weeks and we hope to finish this facility by next June or July," said Jeff Knight, general manager for Cherokee Distributing. "We inventory and sell all of our beer now from our Knoxville facility and we will bring all of the beer each night for the Chattanooga and Cleveland area to this facility where it will be loaded onto delivery trucks to serve our customers. Instead of having to run those transport trucks all the way into downtown Chattanooga, this facility will be more convenient and probably safe them anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour every night. It looks like it's going to work out to be a pretty good location for us."

Company at a glance

Name: Cherokee Distributing Co.Headquarters: KnoxvilleTerritory: 61 counties in East and Middle Tennessee, reaching 24,627 square miles and 3 million peopleHistory: Founded in 1958, Cherokee acquired Mid-South Distributing in Cookeville and Tullahoma in January 2016 and Carter Distributing in Chattanooga in October 2017.Brands: More than 180 beer brands form over 100 suppliers, including MillerCoors, Corona, Heineken and Sam Adams, among others

Knight declined to detail the expected investment in the new complex, but last year Cherokee bought nearly 10 acres of vacant land at the interstate exit next to the FedEx distribution facility at 5045 Summit Spring Way for $2.8 million, according to property records.

photo The existing Cherokee Distributing Co. warehouse at Broad and 13th Streets in downtown Chattanooga will be replaced next year with a new facility to be built along I-75 at exit 7. / Staff photo by Dave Flessner

The 85 employees who work out of Cherokee's existing Chattanooga warehouse will relocate to the new distribution complex once it is finished next year, Knight said.

Cherokee Distributing has leased its Chattanooga warehouse for the past two years from Blair Carter, the former owner of Carter Distributing Co. and son of company founder Bill "Beer Bill" Carter who sold the beer business in 2017 to Cherokee. Carter continues to own the warehouse and most of the 1300 block of South Broad Street stretching from 13th Street and the Chattanoogan hotel to Main Street and the Pilgrim's Pride chicken processing plant.

"We've had a whole lot of interest in this property, but we don't have any definite plans other than leasing it to Cherokee for right now until the new facility is built," Carter said.

The Broad Street complex, which includes 80,000 square feet of warehouse and 10,000 square feet of office space, was built in the 1970s to house four different beer distributors, including competing distributors for Budweiser, Schlitz, Falstaff and Miller's.

"We were actually the first beer distributor in the United States that put all four beer distributors in the same location," Carter said.

When it was built, the property used the rail service along the rear of the property and was located in an industrial and warehouse part of the central city. But over the past half century, rail shipment have ended and most of the industrial and warehouse businesses have migrated elsewhere as the site is now surrounded by apartments, restaurants and hotels.

"It's appreciated a lot with all of the development around it and at this point I'm just looking at what the best option for the future will be," Carter said of the 5.83-acre site.

Contact Dave Flessner at or 423-757-6340.