The Message on the Bottle

image

Like Nehi with its similarly provocative name, Try-me was a phenomenon of early-to-mid 20th century soda pop culture and a lost chapter in Richmond’s commerce history. A flavored beverage manufacturer, the company flourished from around 1924 to 1956, primarily in the southeast but also as far west as Oklahoma and as far north as New York State. Its headquarters ultimately were located at 1345 Florida Avenue NE, Washington, DC.

Try-me’s Richmond plant was initially on the north side of West Main Street and owned by local beverage bottler, Brown’s Distributing. Established in 1919 to produce cherry soda and later to bottle Pepsi, by the mid-1920s Brown’s had added Try-me Bottling Company to its distribution. Needing more space, the company expanded operations across the street to include both the north and south sides of the block. Today 1621/1623 West Main Street stands as an impressive reminder of the vast interconnected brick structures from which the Brown’s Distributing family furnished the city with bottle upon bottle of Try-me’s delicious, brightly colored soft drinks in many alluring flavors: Cream Soda, Dixie Cola, Ginger Ale, Golden Orange, Grape, King Cola, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Peach, Root Beer, and Strawberry.

Brown’s Distributing, which later acquired the Budweiser franchise, operated out of the West Main Street facility until 1981.  The property was sold in 1985. Portions of the old bottler’s buildings were modified and developed. But the address at 1621/23 waited nearly twenty-five years to find owners interested not only in supporting the local arts but also in reviving this overlooked section of the city's long-established arts district.