Rochester Soda Water Company

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The Rochester Soda Water Company was the producer of Miller's Beverages, a local pop brand sold around the mid 20th century. The company was known for Pee Wee Pop, which was popular with children.

The company operated a factory on Thomas Street, in the old Jewish neighborhood around Joseph Avenue.

A short history of Rochester Soda Water Company, Inc.

In 1903 Michael J. Miller, the founder of Rochester Soda Water Company, Inc. came to Rochester, New York from Hartford, CT, where he had a soft drink company, and moved into 35 Thomas Street. There he started a soda water business under his own name and Star Bottling Works. In 1910 along with his brother Abraham Miller they started the Miller Bros beverage business. When around 1917 another bottling company, Rochester Soda & Mineral Water Co., closed up, Michael J. Miller bought it and renamed his own business the Rochester Soda Water Company, Inc. This was the main name of the business until it closed in the early 1980’s. From around 1922-1932 Whistle Bottling was added as a business and from around 1930-1936 Orange Crush Bottling Co. was also added. While Rochester Soda Water Company was growing in Rochester, Abraham Miller moved to Syracuse and started his own bottling company named Onondaga Soda Water Company which produced similar beverages to its counter part in Rochester. Abe Miller had no children and died in 1948.

Michael J. Miller died suddenly in December, 1936, after which time his sons and daughters carried on the business. Each child was given stock in the company. George, Meyer, Sam, Robert and Lester Miller along with their sisters Ida and Marion worked in the business as they grew up. The soda business was in their blood.

George, Meyer, Sam and Lester along with Marion and her husband Leonard Grossman and Ida and her husband Henry Weiss stayed active in the business during the following decades. The only brother not actively involved in the businesses, Robert, became a lawyer in Rochester. While he was going to Syracuse University to study law, he worked for his uncle at his uncle’s bottling company in Syracuse, Onondaga Soda Water.

As a family business, Rochester Soda Water kept expanding. Taking a lesson from its founder, Michael J. Miller, the bottling company took on franchise beverages such as Orange Crush, White Rock, Whistle Beverages, Mission Beverages, Royal Ginger Beer, and its own beverages Star Bottling, Miller’s Beverages, Miller’s London Guard Quinine Water, and Everedy Beverages. Rochester Soda Water also created its own franchise, Pee Wee A, which was franchised and sold in Rochester, Syracuse, the Endicott-Binghamton area, and Hialeah, Florida. Rochester Soda Water also bottled club soda and ginger ale for the up scaled Rio Bamba Restaurant located on Alexander Street in Rochester.

Due to the family’s history of diabetes, Rochester Soda Water was one of the first companies to bottle sugar free beverages in the Rochester area. They also produced seltzer water without salt for those who could not have additional salt in their diet. During the Jewish Holiday of Passover, Rochester Soda Water produced Kosher for Passover beverages. Rochester Soda Water was also one of the first bottlers in the Rochester area to experiment with disposable non-returnable bottles.

Bottling Kosher for Passover beverages:

During the late 1950's and the 1960's, Rochester Soda Water Company with the assistance of Light of Israel’s Chief Rabbi, Solomon Cohen, brought locally manufactured kosher for Passover soft drinks to the Rochester area.
Each spring before Passover, the soda water company underwent a special cleaning ritual which would allow the bottling company to produce kosher for Passover soda water. All utensils were Koshered, the corn syrup used to sweeten the soda was changed over to pure cane sugar, new bottles were purchased for use (in later years non-returnable bottles were used) and all ingredients purchased, including special extracts for the flavor used for the production of the soda were certified kosher for Passover.
Leonard Grossman, a partner at Rochester Soda Water and the formulator for the syrup used in the soda, and Rabbi Cohen were both happy to give to the Rochester area a truly kosher for Passover drink which became a tradition at the Seder table in years past.
Rochester Soda Water is now just a memory, a part of Rochester Jewish history. As the years have passed, the uniqueness of having a locally produced kosher for Passover soda has faded away. Our thanks go to Rabbi Cohen, the Miller family and especially to Leonard Grossman for taking the initiative to bring kosher for Passover soda to Rochester families for the Passover holiday.

Links

[WWW]An exhibit from the Genesee Valley Bottle Collectors Association