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Prominent Sarasota beer, beverage distributor names new president

Andrea Saputo Cox has been working in the family business for decades.


Andrea Saputo Cox has been working in some capacity at Lakewood Ranch-based Gold Coast Eagle Distributing since she was in middle school.
Andrea Saputo Cox has been working in some capacity at Lakewood Ranch-based Gold Coast Eagle Distributing since she was in middle school.
Courtesy photo
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The Saputo family, one of most prominent beverage and beer distribution families in Florida, is changing its leadership structure. 

Andrea Saputo Cox was recently named president and equity manager/owner of the company, Lakewood Ranch-based Gold Coast Eagle Distributing. Gold Coast provides Anheuser-Busch/InBev products to some 1,600 groceries, bars, restaurants, hotels and more in the Sarasota-Bradenton area every week. The company also distributes bottled water, energy drinks and non-alcoholic beverages. 

Saputo Cox replaces her father, John Saputo, in the role. The elder Saputo, while not officially retiring, will slow down — at least a little, his daughter says. Saputo will remain CEO of both Gold Coast Eagle and another distributorship, north of Cincinnati, overseen by Devyn Dugger, who is Saputo’s son-in-law. Gold Coast Eagle acquired the Ohio company, Dickerson Distributing, in 2014. 

“I don’t think he will ever really ‘retire,” Saputo Cox says in an interview in the company’s expansive Lakewood Ranch facility. She adds that her father might go for longer hunting trips in Michigan or take actual full-week vacations, but he remains involved in a variety of projects and leadership decisions.



Over the past 27 years, the Saputo family has led Gold Coast Eagle to become one of the largest beverage distribution companies in the region. It sells more than 4.4 million cases of Anheuser-Busch products, 1.8 million cases of Corona, regional and local craft beers, wine and spirits, and non-alcohol beverages a year, according to a statement. It posted $222 million in revenue in 2021, up 7.7% from $206 million in 2020, and has about 200 sales, service and support associates.  

Gold Coast Eagle dates back to Nov. 1, 1996, when John Saputo acquired the distributorship from the Goodman family, who had operated Twin City Distributors. Saputo’s father had been in the beverage distribution business in Michigan, and the younger Saputo managed or owned distributorships in Michigan, New York and North Carolina before coming to Florida. 

Part of the company’s growth stems from the population boom of the last 25 years: more people, more beer drinkers. Another key in the company’s success? Its state-of-the-art headquarters and hospitality center on the Sarasota County side of Lakewood Ranch, in the corporate park. The facility, on a 23-acre site, includes a tasting room, rotunda, beer garden and conference room, holding up to 200 people. The company has opened the facility to dozens of nonprofits and charitable organizations to host events, and county officials have used it as a staging area during hurricanes or similar weather situations. “We have a lot of pride in giving back to the community where we live,” Saputo Cox says.

Andrea Saputo Cox, left, was recently named president and equity manager/owner of Lakewood Ranch-based Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, a business her father, John Saputo, founded in 1996.
Courtesy photo

While her role as president, on paper, is somewhat new, Saputo Cox isn’t a beverage distribution newbie. She’s been working in the field since she was 12 or 13 years old, when she cleaned out truck bays and washed tires when vehicles returned from daily deliveries. That was in summers during middle school. She was promoted to reconciling truck loads and office work the following summer.

By the time Saputo Cox graduated from high school and the University of Florida, she had her own merchandising route. She then moved through all positions in the company, from pricing, graphics, sales, warehouse, sales management, operations and finance to human resources, community outreach and marketing. “I sat in every seat in the company,” she says, “to learn it all.”

Saputo Cox took a decade or so off to raise two kids, who are now in high school. She came back to the business in spring 2020. (Like Saputo Cox, her children have spent summers working at Gold Coast Eagle.)

John Saputo, in a statement about the transition, notes the importance of starting from the bottom in a family business. “As a Marine, I value the importance of getting your hands dirty and learning from the ground up,” he says. “I always say: ‘Don’t ask something of someone you would not do yourself. Lead by example.' That, along with listening, is what Andrea will do.”

Saputo Cox steps into her role at Gold Coast during a challenging time in the industry, with inflation, gas prices and labor issues among the challenges at the top of the list. One way the company has been dealing with the rise in costs is through trying to be more efficient with deliveries, particularly in working with customers to do less trips but with more cases of products. The company has also raised salaires while maintaining and enhancing benefits, in order to keep and retain top talent. 

Saputo Cox sees a large portion of her role as continuing to foster an environment where people want “to get out of bed and come to work,” adding that “if you take care of employees, they will take care of your customers.”

 

author

Mark Gordon

Mark Gordon is the managing editor of the Business Observer. He has worked for the Business Observer since 2005. He previously worked for newspapers and magazines in upstate New York, suburban Philadelphia and Jacksonville.

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