Domenico Canale is born in San Pietro di Rovereto on the Italian Riviera. A year after his birth, three of his mother’s brothers leave for America, settling in Memphis where they start a successful wholesale grocery business that includes liquor and wine.
A sixteen-year-old Canale sails for America, landing in New Orleans after a 65 day voyage. From there he traveled up the Mississippi to Memphis where he worked for his uncle, Abraham Vaccaro, running a modest fruit cart up and down the streets of Memphis.
Canale formally establishes food wholesaler D. Canale & Co., and sets up operations in a warehouse at 8 Madison St. near Front. Among its offering is a whiskey, sold in ceramic jars and bottles, that Canale names Old Dominick.
Canale develops the Dominick Toddy, a bourbon-based cordial with fruity overtones that must have spoken to the former fruit stand operator. It was described as the “one of which we are the proudest” and its label featured the now iconic Dominicker Rooster.
Just three days before the ratification of the 18th Amendment to the United States Constitution, better known as Prohibition, Domenico Canale passes away at the age of 75 in his Midtown home.
During Prohibition, Domenico’s eldest son, John Dominick Canale, expanded D. Canale’s food and product operations. With distribution up and down the Mississippi from Chicago to the Gulf of Mexico, as far east as Atlanta, and west into Indian Territory, it was one of the largest grocery distributors in the region.
By the time Prohibition was repealed in 1933, D. Canale and Company was operating the largest refrigerated warehouses in Memphis, which caught the attention of Anheuser-Busch. Most beer at the time was unpasteurized and had to be refrigerated, as a result of their refrigeration and an established distribution footprint, D. Canale was awarded exclusive regional distribution rights for Anheuser-Busch beers.
A young John D. Canale, Jr. becomes President of D. Canale following his father’s untimely death. A graduate of Yale and a Lieutenant in the Navy, John D., known by many as “The Bear”, led D. Canale into some of its most prosperous years by diversifying into institutional food and banking. He conceived of the company bywords, “Quality Products, Quality Service, by Quality People,” which we remember to this day.
John D. Canale Jr and his wife, Peggy, had two sons; John D. Canale III and Chris W. Canale. Planning for future generations, John D. Canale Jr. spun both the food business and the beer business out from under the parent company D. Canale and Company in 1982, thereby creating D. Canale Food Services, Inc., and D. Canale Beverages, Inc.
After 125 years of continuous operation, D. Canale Food Services is sold. At the 125th Anniversary celebration, a grateful John D. Canale Jr. reminded his friends, family, customers, and the company’s hundreds of employees that “Quality and Service are remembered long after the price is forgotten.” With the beverage industry trending towards craft beer, wine and spirits, the family sold D. Canale Beverages at its peak in 2010.
Following the surprise discovery of an unopened bottle of Old Dominick Toddy from the late 1800s, Chris and Alex Canale decide to reinstate the storied spirit brand started by their great great grandfather, Domenico. A world-class distillery is planned, to be located in the heart of Downtown Memphis on South Front Street.
With construction finished, and the distillery floor meticulously assembled according to the designs of head distiller Alex Castle, Old Dominick Distillery produces its very first batch of Tennessee Whiskey. This occasion marks the first time since prohibition that whiskey has been legally distilled in Memphis, TN.
Through Old Dominick Distillery, D. Canale and Company’s story continues proudly alongside Memphis’. Together, they have survived two World Wars, Yellow Fever Epidemics, and the Great Depression. We can think of no better way to honor all of our partners, friends, employees, and the city we call home, than to raise a glass and invite the world to “Share a Sip of Pure Memphis.”