Ever since Jack Perkins got his Dublin Bottling Works soda fountain at Maple & Motor, well, let's say I've had way too many cane-sugar soft drinks in recent weeks. (May I recommend mixing the Tart-N-Sweet Lemonade, Cherry Limeade and Dublin Lemon-Lime with a twist of real lime? You're welcome.) But I've been informed that if I want to keep drinking that cane-sugar-sweetened Big Red, another Texas icon, well, I'd best hustle: Once his current supply runs out, says Perkins, that'll be that.
Perkins was told in recent days that Dublin's out of the Big Red business. And he's "bummed," he says, if only because "Big Red is surging, and the cane-sugar Big Red, since I've had it, is selling better than the regular Big Red. So I'm disappointed." He's also a little suspicious -- because, after all, in 2008 Plano-based Dr Pepper Snapple Group snapped up part-ownership in Austin-based Big Red. And we all know what Dr Pepper Snapple Group did the last time Dublin tried to sell one of its products.
Gary Smith, Big Red's chief executive officer, tells Unfair Park he'd rather not comment on whether this latest dust-up involving Dublin and Dr Pepper has to do with the demise of Dublin Dr Pepper. He very kindly says it'd be "inappropriate for me to comment" and that those kind of questions should be directed towards Plano. All he will say is that Dr Pepper Snapple has the right to bottle and distribute Big Red in Dallas. "That's Dr Pepper Snapple's territory," he says. "That is and always has been Dr Pepper Snapple's territory."
Jeff Kloster, owner of Dublin Bottling Works, won't comment on whatever's going on, and Dr Pepper Snapple HQ says to talk to Smith. But those familiar with the situation say that for the last year, Dublin has been bottling cane-sugar Big Red in returnable bottles, as well as producing the fountain version that goes to restaurants like Maple &
Motor. The company also distributed Big Red's retro soda, the kind you'll find in six packs in, say, Central Market. This sudden about-face demands an explanation. At least, as far as Perkins is concerned.
"You set up your business to do certain things, then all of the sudden someone decides they're not going to allow that something to happen," he says. "Maybe there's a good reason for that on a corporate level, but I can't fathom that in my mind. I can't understand it, and I'm not a dumb guy."
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