How do you expand a delightful little anachronism in the middle of mundania and not lose your identity? That’s a problem Rob Metz of Avery’s Beverages is considering.
According to Metz, “There’s a very large increase of interest in craft soda, similar to the craft beer industry. There’s a great deal of interest in small, boutique, hand crafted sodas. The new folks that are discovering us are those kind of folks that are looking for either something made locally or something made by hand with care, not a big corporation.”
Being creative, and even comical, helps too. Avery’s scored record sales in 2016 with their special soda parody of the New England Patriots football team. They then had an even bigger success in 2017 with their Trump Tonic and Hillary Hooch special sodas
“We started out 2016 with the Patriots thing and we ended it with the Trump Tonic and Hillary Hooch., Metz explained . “Those were two big spikes in sales. I’m not sure how we are going to replicate it in 2017 but we’re always looking for something new to do.”
Avery’s soda can now be found in 48 states and is marketed through a half dozen distributors across the country who sell it to little stores and candy shops that specialize in real sugar, old time, glass bottled soda. Despite this coverage, Metz sees Avery’s as a very small organization carried over from more than a half century ago.
“I still think we’re not even a micro-bottler. We’re a nano-bottler. It would take a huge amount of expansion for us to get to the stage of a micro-bottler,” he said.
A major issue in considering any possible expansion is increasing production while keeping their identity as being a very small company, begun in 1904, and located in a local barn. “We’re state of the art – for 1950”
Other issues that play into the decision are cash flow, business loan options, taxes, fees, labor costs, and workers’ comp. Avery’s currently has 10 full and part time employees.
Balancing the need for increasing production yet keeping the identity of being small and localized, Metz went on, “We don’t want to be in every supermarket and corner store, We want to be a little found treat, something cool, quirky – something that you discover. You find a piece of your home town.”
“We remind them of what it was like when they were kids. It was a simpler time – there’s that attraction. And then, people want something made by hand and the whole local thing. All those things are converging and make it good for us,” he said.
According to Metz, there are three options currently being considered.
“I don’t know if we will do an addition to this building and put another bottling line in. I don’t know if we would put another bottling line in another building in the city or if we would have somebody else package it for us,” said Metz. “Those seem to be the options. None of them are cheap or easy.”
Asked when he might make a decision on the expansion, Metz was unsure.
“There are so many other things around here. Something is not working exactly right or needs fixing but you just put up with it and work around it until one day you have just had enough of it and you go ahead and fix it,” he replied. “And then we say, why didn’t we do this two years ago. When it gets to the point where we just can’t take it anymore and we’ve got to do something, that’s how we run.”
In addition to marketing through small stores scattered about the country, local people simply stop by their Corbin Avenue location and buy soda right at the barn. Many are surprised at the long list of available flavors posted there and enjoy watching the old clinking, clanking, hissing machines making soda. On Saturdays, kids and their parents can come and even create their own unique special flavored sodas which often have very imaginative names the kids dream up. For information on making their own soda, call 860-224-0830.0) 224-0830
For Rob Metz, irrespective of expanding or not, the real goal is not simply in the profits, but in the enjoyment of being a unique anachronism and bringing joy to others. “We’re not getting rich, but we’re having fun.”
Avery’s Beverages is located at 520 Corbin Avenue in the red and white barn. For more information, go to www.AverySoda.com .