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Small Business Spotlight: College Club Beverages

May 08, 2019 06:35 PM

ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) -- It's National Small Business Week so, as part of our Small Business Spotlight, we are celebrating a local company that has been a part of this community for nearly a century.

They used to deliver soda to customers' homes. Now, they're seeing a revival as a craft soda bottler.

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At College Club Beverages on Grape Street in the city most everything is old-school. From the glass, refillable soda bottles to the 1930s era production line, they are one of only a handful of independent soda bottlers left in New York.

But what's old is new again. College Club makes and sells soft drinks that are capitalizing on the craft soda craze.

"These are craft sodas and they're made with 100 percent cane sugar," says Louie Petix. "This is a throwback to the 1950s and 60s when all sodas were made with cane sugar."

Petix and his brother Joe are the owners of the business which was started by their grandfather in 1922. He showed us some of the original bottles.

"These bottles say Family Bottling Works. That was the original name that he started out with," Petix said. "As time progressed into the late 40s, my father and uncle changed the name to College Club Beverages."

A few years ago, they purchased the rights to the well-known local Fiz name and began bottling the smaller glass bottle Fiz sodas with distribution throughout New York and into the Midwest.

"Locally we do business with about 80-90 accounts between bars, restaurants, grocery stores, take-outs and beverage centers," Petix said.

While they still sell soda under the College Club name, and also have a cash and carry drive-thru, the Fiz sodas have become their best-selling line of products. They come in about 20 flavors including the popular Jamaican Stone Ginger Beer, Roc City Root Beer and Very Cherry Cola.

"It'll remind you of the days when you would go to a pharmacy and they had a soda fountain," he said.

The bottling machinery is retro as well, with the glass bottles making a rhythmic musical sound as they are filled.

"I go to bed with it and I wake up to it," Petix mused.

On the day of our visit, they were bottling root beer. The syrup goes in first, then the bottles go under carbonated water valves. The caps are then applied. Finally, the bottles move onto an inverter which mixes the syrup with the carbonated water.

News10NBC's Brett Davidsen: "How long have you been working on this line?"

Petix: "Well, I've been working on this line since I was eight or nine years old believe it or not."

Asked why he stays on the production line, Petix deadpans.

"Because I can't sing or dance."

What he can do is make a mighty fine soda. Rejuvenated by the craft soda trend, Petix says he isn't ready to do anything else.

"This business is growing. And if my wife is listening, she ain't gonna like it, but I plan to still be around here in five, seven to 10 years."

You can find Fiz at your independent grocers like Hegedorns. A four pack runs about $3.99.

If you know of a small business you think we should highlight, send us an email at spotlight@whec.com.

Credits

Brett Davidsen

Copyright 2019 - WHEC-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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