In the past 3 months we've visited the birthplaces of two of the most popular colas worldwide. While we rarely drink soft drinks of any type, we can't resist an interesting location if it's along our way (and even if not).
But as most soft drink fans know, Coke isn't the only cola in town. The other one, that started out under the name "Brad's Drink" was created in 1893 in New Bern, NC, by another pharmacist, Caleb Davis Bradham. It's now known worldwide as Pepsi-Cola.
We're currently on a getaway in NC, and by a fortunate coincidence, staying just a 40-minute drive away from New Bern. Of course, we had to take a (side) road trip.
|The Pepsi Store, the former site of Bradham's Pharmacy in New Bern, NC|
Now, it's more a souvenir shopping experience than anything else where a diehard Pepsi-Cola fan can find a lot of merchandise including apparel, collectables, ornaments, ball caps and more. It's open year round with no admission fee. Also, unlike Coke, no sampling area.
Caleb Davis Bradham was a NC native who planned to become a medical doctor. He worked part-time as a pharmacy apprentice at a local drug store while attending school in Maryland. When his father's business failed, he dropped plans for medical school and returned home. Later, Bradham enrolled in pharmacy school and, after graduation, opened a drug store on the corner of Middle and Pollock Streets in downtown New Bern. Like many other drug stores of the time, the pharmacy also housed a soda fountain.
Introduced in 1898, its name implied its origin as a health tonic and the drink proved popular. Although there have been claims that person, a digestive enzyme, was included in the original formula it was never an ingredient in the original formula.
Seeking a better name, Bradham bought the name "Pep Kola" from a local competitor and in August 1898 renamed the drink to Pepsi-Cola. He believed the drink was more than a refreshment but a “healthy” cola, that aided in digestion. The name was rooted from the word dyspepsia, meaning indigestion. The syrup was sold nationwide with the slogan, Exhilarating, Invigorating, Aids Digestion.
In late 1902, the Pepsi-Cola Company was formed due to the rising popularity and demand for the Pepsi-Cola syrup. Bradham was the first company president. Business grew and in June 1903, Pepsi-Cola became an official trademark, one of the earliest in the history of the US Patent Office. By 1904, Pepsi-Cola syrup sales reached almost 20,000 gallons.
Demand continued and by 1905, Pepsi-Cola was being sold in glass 6 oz bottles (prior to this time it was sold only as a syrup). Bradham sold franchises and by 1910 had 240 franchises in 24 states. Under Bradham's direction, the company started a successful advertising campaign featuring women and celebrities emphasizing the drink’s invigorating qualities. To meet the demand that the company advertisements produced, Pepsi-Cola Company was one of the first to ship products via motor transport.
The Pepsi-Cola franchise was hit hard when the U.S. entered WWI in 1917 and rationed sugar causing production and sales to fall. Pepsi-Cola was unable to produce enough syrup to meet consumer demands. Bradham tried sugar substitutes without success. None produced the same taste as the original formula with sugar.
During the war, the government controlled sugar prices at three cents per pound. At the war's end, price controls were lifted, and the cost soared (28 cents per pound). When WWI ended and price controls were lifted, the price of sugar soared. Customers still expected to buy a bottle of Pepsi-Cola for five cents. Bradham bought heavily in anticipation of even higher sugar prices.
Then, sugar prices dropped and Bradham's stockpiling plan backfired, He had an over supply of the sweet and could not raise new capital. Losses mounted up and the company could not cover its production costs. In March 1923, the Pepsi-Cola Company declared bankruptcy and was sold to Craven Holding Company, a group of creditors which took control of the company’s trademark, patents, and other assets for $30,000.
Bradham returned to his drug store in New Bern as a full-time druggist and remained active in the community. I'm not sure if he sold Pepsi-Cola at the soda fountain in later years.
The place where Pepsi-Cola was created is at its original downtown location on the corner of Pollock and Middle Streets. However, as noted earlier, the site now is mainly a place to buy merchandise.
A small area features a recreation of a soda fountain shop where fountain drinks can be bought, but at higher prices then in Bradham's day. This storefront is only a recreation as the original was destroyed by fire years ago.
It was interesting to learn that both creators of these popular soft drinks, Pemberton (Coca-Cola) and Bradham (Pepsi-Cola) were pharmacists who created syrup formulas while working in their pharmacy-drug store. At first, Pemberton's creation was sold as a cure-all product for nervous orders, depression, anxiety and when later added to carbonated water good for one's health. Bradham wanted to duplicate Pemberton's success, but first believed in the health, energy and digestive benefits of his creation.
While both men ultimately lost their businesses, Pemberton sold the syrup recipe and Bradham sold what seemed to be a more established company business. None of the articles I read ever mentioned that the formula for Pepsi-Cola was locked away in a secret vault, whereas for the Coca-Cola syrup formula, the Atlanta, GA, museum features an exhibit vault with the secret formula. They both died before the age of 70, Pemberton at age 57 and Bradham at age 67.
One very unique store, Mitchell Hardware, founded in 1898, is an authentic working hardware store offering home goods, garden care, and unique gifts. Founded as a livery stable in 1898 by Thomas Mitchell, the store originally specialized in selling mules, horses, wagons and harnesses.
|Farmers Market Bear|
If any fellow bloggers are fans of author Nicholas Sparks, you may already know that several of his novels include New Bern, as a setting and it's also his home. New Bern’s place in Spark's novels is highlighted in A Bend in the Road, The Wedding, The Notebook, and The Return. The Walk to Remember tour (the title of a Sparks book set in Beaufort) features more than a dozen stops in New Bern, including the Masonic Theater, Union Point and The Chelsea restaurant.
A delicious reason for our New Bern visit was to enjoy this wonderful dinner as guests of Chef Michael of the Doubletree Hotel there. It was an unexpected treat, always the best ones. By a happy coincidence Chef Michael was visiting the Doubletree Hotel we're in at Atlantic Beach, NC, on Saturday and overheard us mention our Monday anniversary. He invited, we accepted and dinner was delicious (trout, salmon and berry tarts).
Coincidences and happy surprises have been making this a wonderful celebration getaway. There was also the prime viewing of the lunar eclipse from our hotel room earlier this week.