ABARTA is a diversified third and fourth generation family enterprise whose primary business is Coca-Cola distribution in Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio and West Virginia. We are proud to provide careers to over 1750 associates throughout our company.
The Beginning of ABARTA
In 1935 Rolland Adams was working as a bank examiner when he acquired a partial interest in a bankrupt newspaper, The Bethlehem Globe, in Bethlehem, PA. He subsequently assumed a leadership role and bought out his investment partners.
Adams followed his entrepreneurial path in 1953 by purchasing The Atlantic City Press (which later became The Press of Atlantic City). He grew the company further when he purchased a partial interest in the Bethlehem and Pittsburgh, PA Coca-Cola bottling franchises.
In 1963, Adams’ three daughters and their husbands joined with Adams to purchase the other partners’ interests in the Bethlehem and Pittsburgh Coca-Cola operations. The second generation formed ABARTA and was a minority partner with Adams in the Coca-Cola franchises.
The name “ABARTA” is an acronym formed from the last names of its six shareholders: an “A” for each of Adams’ three daughters, Ann, Marcia and Mimi; a “B” for John Bitzer, Jr; an “R” for George Roehr; and a “T” for Donald Taylor. In 1964, Adams sold his interest in The Atlantic City Press to ABARTA, moving additional assets to the second generation.
Adams had put his holdings in his wife Pauline’s name because he assumed she would outlive him. But when she passed away in 1969, predeceasing Rolland, the three Adams daughters inherited The Bethlehem Globe and his remaining Coca-Cola interests. This meant Rolland Adams was now working for his daughters with no remaining ownership. He retired in 1970, leaving the leadership of ABARTA entirely in the hands of the next generation.
Second Generation Continues Growth
The second generation set its sights on continued expansion through the acquisition of additional bottling operations and other ventures. Cleveland Coca-Cola was purchased in 1971, while Summit Solutions, ABARTA’s purchasing division, was founded in 1974.
Over the next twenty years, the company’s growth continued with the founding of ABARTA Energy (then ABARTA Oil and Gas) to develop and operate oil and natural gas interests. During this time the company acquired Coca-Cola bottling franchises in Buffalo, NY and Chester County, PA, and two of the original businesses – The Bethlehem Globe-Times and Pittsburgh Coca-Cola – were sold.
Three Generations Strong
By the mid-1980’s, three members of the third generation were working in the business. In 1990, the family began a robust family business planning process, understanding that the chances of a smooth succession to the next generation and continued success of the enterprise were much greater if the family had a shared vision and worked together toward common goals. Through family meetings and team-building, the third generation (alongside the second generation) developed their vision for the future, established policies and procedures for the family and business, and crafted a succession plan. Preserving family ownership and leadership of a growing, prosperous, diversified enterprise remains one of ABARTA’s long-term goals.
In 1999, John F. Bitzer III was named President and CEO, succeeding his father John Bitzer, Jr. At the same time, James A. Taylor (Ann and Donald Taylor’s son) was elected Chairman of the Board. Charles Bitzer (Mimi and John Bitzer’s son) became President of ABARTA Coca-Cola shortly thereafter. During the transition, this next generation of leaders relied on the expertise of the independent directors on the Board of Directors which had been established in 1996 by the second generation. To this day, the ABARTA Board, with a majority of independent directors, is a valuable resource that offers counsel, supports, and also challenges company leaders, contributing greatly to the success of the enterprise.
The third generation of ABARTA continued the company’s growth and diversification in 2007 when it acquired a 90% interest in Kahiki Foods in Columbus, Ohio. The company produced more than 60 Asian frozen food products that were sold in retail grocery chains and warehouse clubs across the United States. The remaining newspaper, The Press of Atlantic City, was sold in 2013; Kahiki was sold in 2018. Over the years, the company also developed and operated several start-ups in the beverage, publishing and technology industries.
In 2017, ABARTA Coca-Cola Beverages (ACCB) was created with the acquisition of sales and distribution rights for most of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, along with retention of existing franchise territories including Cleveland, Ohio. With this transaction, ACCB became the 10th largest privately-owned Coca-Cola distributor in the United States. Coming full circle, ABARTA once again owns the Pittsburgh territory, one of our two original Coca-Cola franchises.
Charles Bitzer was named CEO of ABARTA in 2019, after having previously served as COO of ABARTA and President of ACCB.
A Third and Fourth Generation Company
The fourth generation of owners is actively involved in family business governance. The ABARTA Family Council meets twice a year and has a robust program of owner education and mentoring. Multiple members of the fourth generation have served as Associate Advisors on the ABARTA Board of Directors, where they are engaged in Board governance first-hand. The next generation family members also serve in important functions on various Family Council committees.