Great Basin Beverage
Local company distributes the latest brands to thirsty northern Nevadans
By Dianna Troyer
Great Basin Beverage in Wells is ensuring the town—named for pools of water relied on by California Trail travelers—lives up to its namesake and heritage, remaining a source for quenching thirsts.
Headquartered in a spacious warehouse in Wells, Great Basin Beverage’s 30 employees coordinate and deliver more than 1 million cases of beverages annually within a 50,000-square-mile territory in northern Nevada and northeastern California.
“The beverage business is fast-paced and exciting, with a steady stream of innovative products and marketing strategies,” says Alan Blach, company president. “We’re ultimately making people happy with their favorite beverage.”
The warehouse has more than 100 types of beverages—beers, wine, spirits, sodas, fruit beers, energy drinks, canned coffees, hard ciders, seltzers, and juices.
The variety encompasses national and global brands—some as local as Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. in Chico and some as distant as Paulaner Brewery in Germany.
“It’s always been a fun business for me, ever since I was young and worked for my parents in Elko at our family distributorship, Blach Distributing,” Alan says. “Working day to day with our team members, customers, suppliers, and beverage brands makes my job a pleasure.”
Nearly every bar, restaurant, convenience store, and grocery store between Susanville, California, and West Wendover, Nevada, are customers of Great Basin Beverage.
“It’s an ever-changing business,” Alan says.
To boost sales, marketing strategies change constantly. Recent ad campaigns showcase the West and cowboys—idealizing their sense of freedom and rugged individualism.
“This spring, a new beverage on the block from Molson Coors will be Topo Chico Ranch Water,” Alan says. “It will be sold nationwide after sales soared in test markets last year.”
Inspired by a traditional southern Texas cowboy cocktail called Ranch Water, it has three ingredients: lime, tequila and Topo Chico Mineral Water.
The mineral water has natural subtle citrus and saline flavors. Bottled since 1895, it comes from springs flowing beneath an inactive volcano near Monterrey, Mexico.
Another successfully marketed product with a cowboy ad campaign is Pendleton Whisky—a blend of Canadian whiskies bottled at Hood River Distillers in Oregon.
Introduced in 2003, it was sold at the renowned Pendleton Round-Up rodeo. The rodeo’s slogan, “Let ’er Buck” and bucking horse logo are on every bottle. The distiller’s website promotes it with stories under the category, “The hands that built the West and the true Western tradition they carry on.”
Eventually, popularity extended beyond Oregon.
“Pendleton Whisky is everywhere now, but when we started distributing it, there was little interest,” says Roberto Gonzales, Great Basin Beverage’s general manager, and sales manager in Wells. “We helped build that brand here in northern Nevada until it became really popular.”
Roberto says the key to increasing sales and introducing new brands, such as Pendleton Whisky, is to offer promotions and incentives.
“After a few years, our Pendleton sales surprised me,” Alan says.
Sales steadily climbed nationwide, compelling Mexico’s tequila giant Casa Cuervo to buy Pendleton Whisky in 2018.
Roberto says Great Basin’s sales teams have increased sales for other beverage suppliers, too.
“We help small companies boost sales,” Roberto says. “In many cases, another company eventually buys them.”
Great Basin has seen growth in sales the past two years.
“The pandemic really hurt some businesses, but not us,” Roberto says. “Our sales increased because people did panic buying. Due to the lockdown, they stayed home to enjoy their favorite beverages instead of going to restaurants, bars, and casinos.”
Great Basin Beverage has grown exponentially since Alan bought the Wells business in 1999 from Sonny and Gerry DiGrazia.
“It’s a small world among distributors, and I heard Sonny was 75 and ready to retire,” Alan says. “We always got along, and I was ready to own my own business.”
Alan had practical and academic business experience.
“Growing up, I did whatever Dad needed me to do: working in the warehouse, cleaning the restrooms, filing, sweeping up, driving truck,” Alan says.
He earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from University of San Diego and a Master of Business Administration from University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Alan changed the name from DiGrazia Wholesale to Great Basin Beverage to better describe the service area and products.
The DiGrazias founded the business in 1954 as mainly a beer distributorship.
“Today, there are so many more beverage choices than when they started,” Alan says.
The past two decades, Alan has expanded the company’s territory, buying small distributorship.
“The business has grown steadily along with the growth of the area we cover,” he says.
Alan says he sees himself leading the company for many more years.
“There’s always something new going on,” he says. “I’m thankful for our customers and the good people who have worked for our company the past 22 years. I look forward to whatever a new workday brings.”