Coca-Cola Bottler Puts Cap on Long Presence

The Daily News Journal, March 30, 1994

(Many thanks to Bill Jakes, Postcards from Murfreesboro, Rutherford County Historical Society, Pictures and the Stories the Tell)

The Christy & Huggins Ice Plant was located on Maney and S.E. Broad Street on the present day site of the Children‘s Discovery Center, near Murfree Spring.In 1902 Mr. Simeon B. Christy, Sr. and Mr. Jesse W. Huggins purchased the Read & Perry Coal Co. and started operations of an ice plant, as well as selling coal. The construction of the ice plant building was of solid 16-inch thick brick. The bottling works, which later became Coca Cola Bottling Co., began in the same building about 1908. The front of the building was remodeled in 1932, doing away with any remaining wooden structures. The Coca Cola Bottling Co. was closed in the late 1985 and the Discovery Center was built on the site. On August 3, 2002, the Children’s Museum Corporation of Rutherford County opened the 18,000-square-foot Discovery Center Museum at this location. Since then, the adjoining 20-acre Murfree Spring Wetlands area has been opened for public use.

Workers are demolishing the old Coca-Cola Plant on Southeast Broad Street – a sign that bottling the soft drink is becoming part of a bygone era.

The factory began as a chancy venture for three local businessmen almost a century ago.  C.B. Huggins Jr., former president of the Murfreesboro bottler, remembers when it was big business.

“The plant across the the road started as a big ice plant in 1902,” Huggins said.

“It was owned by my grandfather, C.B. Huggins, my uncle J.W. Huggins and Simeon B. Christy.”

During the early years of the 20th century, the idea of bottling Coca-Cola was not widely accepted.  Coke had been sold at soda fountains for the last 15 years of the 19th century and many soda executives were afraid the bottling would distracts from fountain sales.

To promote this new concept, Coca-Cola began to traverse the United States seeking people with enough capital to invest in the operations of a local bottling establishment.

When they came to Murfreesboro they found the partnership of Huggins and Christy.  In 1908,bottling began in the shadow of the ice factory.

“The Coca-Cola operation was smaller than the ice portion of the business until after World War II,” Huggins said.

“We stopped producing ice in 1962.  There were so many refrigerators by that time and there wasn’t a need for ice.  It wasn’t paying off, so we just shut it down.”

Surprisingly enough, there’s more than one way to bottle a soft drink.  Coca-Cola arrived at the bottling plant ready to be put into bottles, but, the Murfreesboro factory use what is commonly referred to as the syrup method.

Syrup would be brought to the works in 50-gallon drums and then mixed with carbonated water.

When the ingredient labeled on the bottle stated syrup, it didn’t reveal the contents of the concentrate.  Even the bottlers were in the dark.

When asked if the Coca-Cola formula had changed over the years, Huggins replied, “As far as I know, it’s the same stuff.”

One thing, according to Huggins, is almost universally true about the product.  It does taste better out of a 6-ounce bottle.

“You’re dealing with a smaller quantity and the carbonation is retained in the content”, Huggins said.  “It’s fizzier.”

The plant remained under the management of the Huggins family till 1964 when it was sold to Jeff Dunn of Huntsville, AL.  Under new ownership, it was liquidated to Coca-Cola Consolidated in Charlotte, NC, which halted bottling at the factory.

What will Huggins remember most about the old bottling works?

“It was like a big family.”

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