With his trucks carrying out eggs, chicks, and produce, he saw an opportunity to offer his customers more. At the beginning of the 1930’s Harry developed a line of flavored soft drink products including Red Rooster and Crisp Flavors, which were delivered on these poultry trucks. This leap into the soft drink business, which was then unknown to him, ultimately was the cornerstone for his success.
Then in 1936 Marion Pepsi-Cola, as Pepsi MidAmerica was first known, was finally founded. Before that Pepsi was relatively unknown so Harry would only agree to test it out by splitting an initial unit of concentrate with the St. Louis bottler saying, “I’ll put Pepsi-Cola on the hatchery trucks and if it sells as well as the chicks and eggs, we’ll keep it.” Within a year he acquired the local franchise for Pepsi and started with five employees. Their dedication and hard work built the foundation for the company’s future expansion and growth.
The Pepsi business quickly grew doubling after its first full year to over 200,000 cases of 24 bottles sold in 1938. The operation was moved into the hatchery building at 1005 S Court Street. By 1939 the building was grown and soda sales had become greater than the hatchery business. In 1943, the fountain franchise was purchased for the area. In addition to community involvement during WWII, Harry had to keep a soda business running through rations of items such as sugar and metal. Following the war the price of a 12oz Pepsi jumped from 5¢ to 6¢ and veterans such as Dick Speers, the namesake of our productions plant, returned home.
Not discouraged by a fire which destroyed much of his plant on South Court Street in March 1956, Harry Crisp I purchased the former Davis Ford agency building at 700 N. Market St. on the corner of West White and North Market Streets where new equipment was installed, and the business greatly expanded. Although part of the original plant was lost in the fire, both of these remaining buildings still stand today. In 1960, Marion Pepsi added Orange Crush to its bottling line and in 1966, got the distribution rights to 7 Up and Dr. Pepper. In 1967 they expanded plant operations to Robinson, Illinois. In 1968, a new $2,000,000 Pepsi-Cola bottling plant was constructed in Marion on Old Route 13 next to Interstate 57 at 2605 W. Main Street and was opened in 1969.
In 1981-83 they expanded to Paducah, Kentucky and Malden, Mo. and in 1989, built a new administration building next to the bottling plant in Marion. Then in 1985, Marion Pepsi now had branch distribution centers in 5 states: Illinois, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee and Missouri. Pepsi maintained over 180 sales routes, over 30 fleet of vehicles, and provided employment for over 500 men and women. Marion Pepsi has led the high tech revolution in the soft drink bottling industry. It began a major computerization of all aspects of its business including sales, marketing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, budgeting, payroll and inventory.
In 1991 a second bottling line was built at their Marion plant doubling output and in 1995 they added Ocean Spray, All Sport, Lipton Tea and Chocolate Moose to the product line. Crisp Container was opened in 1997 as a 100,000 square foot plastic bottle manufacturing plant on Skyline Drive in Marion which serves some bottling and freight needs for PMA and others.
Pepsi MidAmerica has grown into the largest family owned Pepsi bottlers in the United States. The plant, which was the newest in the world in 1969, continues to grow and upgrade as new products are taken on. The number of jobs has increased by over three times since 1975. PMA continues to improve as a company including adding full-line vending through most of the region and an in-house Priority Care center for co-workers and their families. We hope that the best of what we do here will continue to pour over into the lives of others in our MidAmerican region for years to come.
Pepsi MidAmerica has 11 physical locations throughout the region staffed with locally based representatives you know personally and who are always ready to provide on-site support.
Pepsi MidAmerica has a long standing tradition of supporting the community, both professionally and philanthropically. PMA sponsors and supports numerous events through each of our locations. We are proud of the communities in which we work and live and we take pride in being a good corporate citizen, giving back to those communities which have stood by us since 1936. Below is a list of some of the community organizations we support throughout our MidAmerican region.