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Reece Museum to highlight two iconic soft drinks in ‘The Tri-City Beverage Story’

Contributed • Jul 22, 2019 at 9:08 AM

“The Tri-City Beverage Story: A History of Dr. Enuf and Mountain Dew in Johnson City” will be on display at the Reece Museum at East Tennessee State University beginning July 22 and continuing through Sept. 30 as part of Johnson City’s Sesquicentennial celebration.

Featuring artifacts from local collectors and the Reece’s Permanent Collection, the exhibition explores the history of Tri-City Beverage and two of its most famous soft drinks, Dr. Enuf and Mountain Dew. It includes bottles, television and radio ads, and collectibles from the beginning of Tri-City Beverage to the present. A documentary produced by Fred Sauceman of ETSU’s Office of University Relations and Gabe Perez, a 2019 graduate of ETSU with a degree in media and communication, will also be featured in the exhibition.

In 1949, after hearing complaints from his friends and co-workers about the lack of vitamins in foods and beverages, a Chicago businessman named William “Bill” Mark Swartz created a formula for a new carbonated beverage fortified with vitamins. Swartz named this B vitamin-rich beverage Dr. Enuf and then placed an ad in the National Bottler’s Gazette seeking a bottler and distributor for the new drink. After seeing the ad and meeting Swartz, Tri-City Beverage’s president and co-founder, Charles O. Gordon, struck a lasting partnership.

Today, Dr. Enuf is still bottled and distributed by Tri-City Beverage and available in four different varieties: Original, Diet, Herbal and Diet Herbal. The brand is more popular than ever, and is distributed in the same region. Customers can find Dr. Enuf products in the Tri-Cities and all over Northeast Tennessee, as well as parts of Southwest Virginia and Western North Carolina. The beverage can also be found nationally in Cracker Barrel Restaurants.

While Ally and Barney Hartman first produced the popular beverage, Mountain Dew, in Knoxville in 1946, the flavor people recognize today is a Johnson City original. In 1954, Tri-City Beverage was issued the first Mountain Dew franchise and began bottling and distributing the soda. The flavor was a lemon-lime flavor similar to brands like 7UP or Sprite.

In 1960, Tri-City Beverage began placing Tri-City Lemonade, a citrus-lemonade flavored soda, into Mountain Dew bottles. This new flavor, as today, was the beginning of a soda now distributed across the nation and world. The rights to the beverage were sold to Pepsi in 1964. Today, Mountain Dew ranks as the third-most-popular liquid refreshment brand in the United States.

Johnson City is being recognized as “The Home of Mountain Dew” with an official Tennessee Historical Marker at the former location of the Tri-City Beverage Corp. The new marker will be unveiled Friday, July 19, at 9 a.m. at the corner of West Walnut and Cherokee streets in front of Domino’s Pizza Restaurant. Parking will be available in the Domino’s parking lot. Following the unveiling attendees are invited to the Reece Museum for a special preview of “The Tri-City Beverage Story.”

A reception for “The Tri-City Beverage Story” will be held Thursday, Aug. 29, from 5-7 p.m.

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