| Mountain Dew as we know it
today had its beginnings with Hartman Beverages in Knoxville,
Tennessee, Tri-City Beverages in Johnson City, Tennessee and the Tip Corporation of
America, in Marion, Virginia. Its flavor and ownership changed before Pepsi acquired it in 1965, making it one of their major brands.
Charlie Gordon (see TRI-CITY BEVERAGE for more info) was told by Barney Hartman of Hartman Beverage on a train trip back from the Tennessee Bottler's Convention in Nashville about a product he made at his lake cabin and used locally. Barney and his brother Ally were known connoisseurs of the mixed drink and even kept an open bar in their Knoxville, Tennessee bottling plant. It seemed that the brothers had concocted their own private 'chaser', a special East Tennessee 'Zero Proof' soft drink for mixing with Jack Daniels, that they jokingly called "Mountain Dew".
Gordon, still new to the bottling business, had hoped to pick up some new drinks for Tri-City at the convention and became very interested when Barney asked him to come to Knoxville and meet with him and Emery Frambach, from Owens Illinois and look over the design of a bottle. Emery and Gordon did some restructuring of the label and came up with putting names on the bottle.
Around 1949 Barney passed away, and Gordon had not made a decision on whether or not Tri-City Beverage would be the first commercial bottler of Mountain Dew. It was not until Emery got the interest recreated and Gordon made the plunge and bought the bottles and tried to market the product.
By 1954, Gordon had been working with Ally to spruce up the white logo for Mountain Dew (like the one pictured above) with a splash of red, and helped Ally write Tri-City the first, and ONLY, franchise ever written for Mountain Dew by its creators, Hartman Beverage. This original franchise gave Gordon all the territory within a 150 mile radius of Johnson City, except for Ally's distribution area around Knoxville.
Part of the allure of early Mountain Dew was for each bottle to bear the 'signature' of its maker. And there can be many bottles found with the names of their makers, I even have one that has "Tom and Jerry". The Tri-Cities bottle carried the signature "By Charlie--Jim and Bill" (Charlie Gordon, Jim Archer and Bill Kibler). The bottle I have pictured here is the first one, by Barney and Ally.
Initially Gordon bottled Mountain Dew in two different bottles, an 8 3/4 oz returnable which sold for 5 cents and a 28 oz green glass, non-returnable bottle (which can be seen in the picture of Charles Gordon on Tri-Cities page) which was sold for 15 cents.
Later in Tri-Cities history, Bill Bridgeforth came onboard as plant manager. Bridgeforth and Bill Jones developed a lemonade flavor that was doing very well. Bridgeforth later approached Jones, of Marion, to allow the change of the original flavor of Mountain Dew which was similar to 7up, to the Tri-City lemonade flavor. Jones agreed and allowed the change but only in the Tri-City area of East Tennessee.
Soon after using the new flavor, Mountain Dew became the #1 drink of Tri-City's sales. When Tri-City changed the formula to the lemonade base, it competed directly with Golden Cola, a citrus flavor drink that Gordon had helped develop with Charlie Lazier. Lazier thought that Gordon was giving more attention to Mountain Dew and pulled the Golden Cola franchise from Tri-City.
Bridgeforth also convinced Jones to test market the New Mountain Dew in North Carolina, a small area called Lumberton, in one warehouse with 5 trucks. After the successful debut by the Minges, the rest is history.
Bridgeforth pulled out all stops to advertise the New Mountain Dew, using TV commercials, custom signs, sampling at local grocery stores and giving felt 'hillbilly' hats to anyone purchasing a full case. Route salesmen even wore the hillbilly hats on the routes.
During Jones' many trips to North Carolina he worked to gain other bottlers for Mountain Dew. The TIP stockholders agreed to offer the drink to Pepsi bottlers first and if they did not want it, it was open game. Offering to Pepsi posed one problem, the Hartman flavor (similar to 7up) was not sanctioned or owned by Pepsi, and that particular flavor was in direct competition with Teem, Pepsi's own lemon flavored drink. But since the New Mountain Dew flavor was not in direct competition with Pepsi's Teem, and since Pepsi did not have a lemonade flavored drink of its own to bottle, Jones finally had a market with Pepsi. The Hartman Bottling Co, the originator of Mountain Dew, only awarded one franchise and that was to Tri-City Beverage.
Tip is believed to have awarded 55 franchises before they sold to Pepsi in 1964. Sixteen of the 56 bottlers were non-Pepsi distributors (known at the time as the 'Sweet Sixteen'). The other 40 of the 56 bottlers were associated with Pepsi. Included in the count of the forty Pepsi bottlers would be two of the original five stockholders: R. B. Minges of Fayetteville and Herman Minges in Lumberton. Eight others of the "Sweet Sixteen" are: West Jefferson North Carolina Dr. Pepper, West Jefferson, NC, owner - Cyle Vannoy; RC Cola Bottling of Greenville, Greenville, SC, owner - Laurens C. Nicholson; Belton Bottling Co, Belton, SC, owner - John R. Anderson; Dr Pepper/Mountain Dew Bottling of Staunton, Staunton, VA, owner - unknown; RC Cola, Panama City, Florida; RC Cola, Pensacola, Florida; RC Cola Bottling of Winchester, Winchester, VA, owner - Ed Bridgeforth; and Tri-City Beverage, Johnson City, TN, owner - Charlie Gordon. Even today, there are two non-Pepsi bottlers that have refused to give up their franchise written by the Tip Corp years before, Winchester and West Jefferson.
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