By Sterling McGinn
A longstanding and family-operated Newberry business has switched hands following 84 years and three generations.
Newberry Bottling Company, owned by Newberry resident Michael Maki, was sold to WP Beverages LLC, the parent company of Wis-Pak Inc. of Watertown, Wisconsin. The sale of the business was official on Friday, September 30.
“After 84 years of family ownership, we made the difficult decision to sell,” said Maki, who is a third-generation owner of the company. “It’s been an honor to keep the U.P. refreshed.”
And keeping locals refreshed was a family tradition—three generations and help from the fourth as a matter of fact. But Michael Maki felt it was time to sell the family business.
Wis-Pak Inc. has purchased many family-owned bottlers; the companies then go under the sub-company of WP Beverages. Newberry Bottling will now be known as Pepsi-Cola of Sault Ste. Marie.
“The transition was not an easy decision, but we left the community in a good spot,” Maki said. “WP Beverages will continue to support the community.”
Maki also noted that his staff of ten, which includes the employees of the Newberry and Sault Ste. Marie locations, will be kept on by the new owners. Maki’s son, Kilian, will also continue working with the company in the Sault. His involvement in the operations makes him the fourth generation of Maki’s with the company.
Wis-Pak Inc. began as a cooperative to supply Newberry Bottling. Today, the company is owned by 37 shareholders representing 65 Pepsi-Cola bottlers across 19 states. It is the 5th largest independent bottler in the country.
In addition to various Pepsi beverages, Wis-Pak, includes products of Keurig and Dr. Pepper.
Newberry Bottling Company distributes in the entire Eastern U.P., including Drummond, Mackinac and Sugar Islands and portions of Schoolcraft and Alger counties. The distribution territory is approximately 58,000 square miles.
Newberry Bottling appeared on the local scene in May of 1938 when two young entrepreneurs, Neil J. Maki, and Edward Haapala relocated to Newberry from Sault Ste. Marie, where they were employed with Soo Bottling Company.
The two men purchased the old A&P store from Mrs. McGruer on East Helen Street to open their new venture, Newberry Bottling Works.
A second-hand delivery truck along with bottle machinery from Milwaukee was purchased to manufacture and deliver their product.
Maki and Haapala bottled and marketed “Tahquamenon Beverages,” with a slogan “Pure as the Fresh North Breeze.” Their line of soft drinks included strawberry, cream soda, lemon lime, and root beer flavors.
A year later, Maki purchased a truckload of Pepsi-Cola from Dossin Products from Detroit and sold the entire load in one week. Dossin then offered Maki the entire Upper Peninsula territory but he turned it down because he only had one delivery truck. He agreed to the Eastern Upper Peninsula as his sales and distribution area.
In December of 1941, Maki purchased Haapala’s interest in the business, and a year later Newberry Bottling became an independent Pepsi-Cola bottler.
Soon after, Orange Crush, Squirt and Dr. Pepper joined the line-up. 7UP and other beverages were added over the years.
As the company continued to grow, a garage was added to the bottling facility on the west side of the building in 1945, and a year later, another addition was constructed making room for a larger bottle washer.
As space for storage became necessary, Maki rented a building from George MacDonald, and purchased the old Andrew Westin and Co. warehouse on West Helen Street. Warehouse space was also rented in the Sault and a delivery van was purchased because Neil’s brother, Wilho, delivered product in the area.
The Newberry facility suffered two fires—one in 1939 and another in 1945. The damages were quickly repaired, and production continued.
In 1974, Neil’s son, Michael F. (Mike) Maki, joined his father and in 1978 the business became known as Newberry Bottling Company. Mike expanded the scope of business and added vending, product diversity, and fountain systems. His sons, Michael and Jake, helped with all aspects of the business throughout the years.
To accommodate the innovation of “Pepsi in a can” and eventually plastic containers, the regional Independent Pepsi Bottlers, including Newberry Bottling Company, united to form Wis-Pak in 1969.
In 1979, construction commenced on a larger and more modern bottling facility on the south side of Newberry Avenue, just north of the railroad tracks on the former location of the Charcoal Iron Company Red Row houses. Production at the new plant began on February 2, 1981.
The new building boasted a bottle filler that was four times as large as the old six-bottle filler and allowed for more space for pallets of cans and plastic from Wis-Pak.
In the fall of 2006, the elder Mike Maki died in an automobile accident and the operations of Newberry Bottling Company were assumed by his wife Paula and their two sons.
Bottling of Pepsi-Cola in Newberry ceased in the late 1990s, but the company continued the operation of the two warehouses and the distribution of Pepsi-Cola products, juices, teas, water, and other soft drinks throughout the Eastern Upper Peninsula.