Local wine-scene pioneer and distributor Ardie Bonanno passes away at 75

Ardie Bonanno, a local wine distributor and a legendary figure on the Dayton area's wine scene, has died at 75. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Ardie Bonanno, an iconic figure in the Dayton-area wine scene for decades who was also a pioneer in the local and national wine distribution industry, died Tuesday, Sept. 29 at Miami Valley Hospital. He was 75.

“If you live in the Dayton area and have had a glass of wine in your hand, chances are you knew Ardie Bonanno,” said Mike Frank, co-owner of Arrow Wine & Spirits. “He was so personable that you couldn’t get mad at him. He just lit up a room when he walked in.”

James Gerard Bonanno, known by his nickname “Ardie” to all, was born in Lima, Ohio in 1944 to the late Francis and Mary Bonanno. He was a graduate of Chaminade High School and earned a Bachelor’s degree in business from the University of Dayton.

After graduation, Ardie joined his father, Francis Bonanno Sr., and his brother, Francis “Frank” Bonanno, to found a wine wholesale and national importing company based in Dayton. Ardie and his brother grew Allied Wine and Spirits into one of the largest wholesalers in Ohio, and the importing company, Francis A BonAnno Inc, grew into one of the nation’s top wine-importing companies.

The Bonannos sold their businesses to a rival Dayton-based wholesale company, Heidelberg Distributing Company.

“Ardie was always friendly and kind and fun to be with, and he loved sharing the joys of wine and friendship,” Heidelberg Distributing Company CEO Vail Miller Jr. said. “He was a true ambassador for wine.”

Short in stature but not in energy, Ardie went on to launch another wine-wholesale business, 55 Degrees, which operated throughout Ohio. The company was sold to a large national wine and spirits wholesaler, Glazer’s (now Southern Glazer’s), and Ardie worked in a management role in that company until his retirement in 2018.

“We met each other when I was 8 or 9 years old, in Princeton Park in Dayton View,” Norman Mayne, CEO of Dorothy Lane Market, recalled. “Even when he was a kid, he was a celebrity. His personality as a kid was exactly the same as when he was an adult. He had that scratchy voice even then, too. He was tenacious in sports, and did Golden Gloves (boxing) when he was in his 40s. He was brilliant, and he was as nice a guy as you would meet.”

Beth Freyvogel, co-owner of Arrow Wine & Spirits, said Bonanno "was a catalyst in the success of the wine world in Dayton, Ohio.

“My father, Denny Freyvogel, my uncle Mike Frank and Ardie have been wheeling and dealing wine since the 1960s,” Freyvogel said. “Ardie’s dynamic and fun personality made him hard to resist. He had an amazing ability to remember everyone, and he was as joyful to the stock person as he was to the boss. Dayton will surely miss his presence.”

Ardie Bonanno, a local wine distributor and a legendary figure on the Dayton area's wine scene, died Sept. 29, 2020 at Miami Valley Hospital. He was 75. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Amy Haverstick, owner of Jay’s Restaurant in Dayton’s Oregon District, said Ardie Bonanno’s death is “a loss for the Dayton wine community.”

“I remember many times that Ardie would come in to taste wines with my dad (the late Jay’s Restaurant founder Jay Haverstick) in mid-afternoon. Those two truly had fun with each other.”

Mike Schwartz, who worked for Bonanno from 1983 to 1994 at Allied Wine & Spirits, said Ardie ’"knew, and was friends with, almost every retailer and restaurateur in this town. His personality and energy level brought a special touch to any type of wine tasting, dinner or just an everyday sales call. Amazingly, yet not all that surprising if you knew him, he stayed active in wine sales until just a couple years ago."

Ardie Bonanno’s son Matthew said his dad was “a tremendous father (who) loved me unconditionally. He helped me understand what it means to be a great father.”

Ardie Bonanno was preceded in death by his brother, Mark Bonanno; and son, Ben Corcoran. Ardie is survived by his loving wife, Sue Bonanno; children, Kevin and Joannie Bonanno (Sam, Ryan, and Mia), Matthew and Kristin Bonanno (Siena and Eva), Jack Corcoran, Blake and Jeremy Garrett (Anderson, Liam, and Callahan) and Amanda and Nick Clason (Hudson and Jude); siblings, Ann and Jerry Allen, Frank and Kitty Bonanno, Claire Brogan, and Chrissy Barstow.

A private service, for family only, will be held. To share condolences, go to www.routsong.com.

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