For just shy of 40 years, Don Wilson, route owner and independent operator for Alpine Fresh, USA, has delivered water to homes and businesses throughout Southern California and the City of Orange. He got his start in the industry when he was just 13 years old.
“My mother worked at the water company warehouse,” says Wilson. “As a kid, I would go there with her, and I asked the foreman if he had any part-time work. He gave me a little interview, and for my eighth grade Easter vacation, he hired me for a week to keep the place clean.”
A couple of years later, Wilson was offered a part-time position loading the trucks at night, but he already knew he wanted to drive his own route. As he began meeting drivers and distributors, Wilson took initiative and asked to fill in for drivers when they weren’t able to work or were on vacation.
“During that time I ran routes from Newport Beach to Whittier, but the City of Orange was always my favorite route,” says Wilson. “I lived here. I went to school here. This route was the route, and I wanted to buy it.”
His parents helped him purchase the Orange route when it was put up for sale, and Wilson has been an independent distributor ever since.
“I was working with all of the guys that I had worked for,” he recalls of his early years. “We would meet for breakfast in the mornings and then go to our routes.”
Wilson expanded the business from an initial 1,000 bottles a month up to 3,000, and still serves many of his original customers.
Mike Learakos, President and CEO of Abound Food Care, has been one of those loyal customers for nearly 40 years.
“Don Wilson started as my parents’ water provider in the early to mid 1980s,” says Learakos. “My wife and I have been relying on Don since 1986. My son moved to Placentia a couple years ago and took his bedroom furniture, his clothes and Don as his water man. Don services so many of our family, friends and business associates because his service skills are unmatched. He treats everyone like family.”
Some of Don’s clients have even become family. He met his wife, Cindy Wilson, while delivering to a local surgeon’s office in 1985. Cindy, along with their two children, Andrew and Mary, began helping Don back in 2000 after he received an epilepsy diagnosis.
“Around that time, Don started having seizures while he was awake,” says Cindy. “He couldn’t drive anymore, so since then we’ve all been helping him. We initially hired drivers, but as soon as the kids were old enough to drive, they started driving for him.”
The Wilson’s business has continued to push ahead through Don’s five brain surgeries, COVID and an unfounded lawsuit aimed at removing independent area contractors that was eventually dropped.
“We keep getting these challenging hurdles we have to jump, but I’ve been fortunate enough to have wonderful people who have helped me get through it all,” Don says. “The lawsuit came about because one of the larger businesses bought the old company that I partnered with, and they sued to take my route away from me. The case was dropped.”
Despite the challenges, Don has forged on. “Don had these electrodes on his head and had to wear a ball cap. He carried a device that looked like a garage door opener in his pocket,” says Cindy. “He persevered through all of that and kept delivering. We could have sold the route, but this is his life. His city. His family. His everything.”
Don is currently taking on new clientele and looking to expand business in Orange for home and commercial service. Contracts are not required, and all orders are tailored to the needs of the customer. If you would like to receive more information for bottled water delivery service needs, please contact Don directly at the number listed below. Use discount code DONWILSONWATER for additional savings.
Independent Distributor, Alpine Fresh, USA