February 09, 2017

Cheerwine! Our Drink in Salisbury NC Celebrates 100 Years!

The History of Cheerwine 
(adapted from an article by JIMMY TOMLIN in Our State magazine)

Its flavor is sweet, its color is red, and its history is inextricably intertwined with our own. At soda fountains and from vending machines, we grew up with it. This is our drink. But we’re happy to share it with the rest of the world.

Bob Morgan, a Salisbury NC native, began drinking Cheerwine soft drink as a boy in the mid-1930s. He tells about the old country store where he would get a bologna & cheese sandwich and a bottle of Cheerwine for a quarter. And he tells a pricelss story of drinking a Cheerwine in a foxhole amid the combat of World War II.

Those who have grown up in Salisbury, North Carolina may take Cheerwine for granted. The soft drink was not widely available outside the Salisbury area for decades. Cliff Ritchie, president and chief executive of Cheerwine's maker, Carolina Beverage Corp., says that the company was pretty content just to stay in basically the Piedmont and in the western North Carolina area. Ritchie is the fourth generation of Cheerwine leadership. His great-grandfather, L.D. Peeler, concocted the soft drink in 1917, when a sugar shortage during World War I led him to experiment with cherry flavoring. It all began in a building, a former whiskey distillery, in downtown Salisbury.

While the soft drink may have roots in a former whiskey distillery, Cheerwine contains no alcohol. The 'wine' in the name derives from the deep burgundy color. Countless people are often confused, assuming the drink is a wine product! IN 1992, federal regulators and anti-alcohol activists were accusing Cheerwine of encouraging teens to drink alcohol. The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms backed away quickly after an investigation, acknowledging, "Cheerwine is wine like root beer is beer."

Cheerwine has shown continued growth, despite the challenges, through the years. The Cheerwine concentrate - with its 'secret formula' is sold locally, but stories abound of people driving thousands of miles to Salisbury NC to get the soft drink.

When you are in Salisbury, stop in to Innes Street Drug (on South Main Street in the historic downtown). Innes Street Drug is the only place in town that sells officially licensed Cheerwine merchandise...and not just the drink! The downtown shop, complete with old-fashioned soda fountain bar & stools (and the best milkshake in town!) offers Cheerwine shirts, hats, boxer shorts, clocks, license plates, and bumper stickers. Visitors to Salisbury often leave with $600-$700 worth of Cheerwine memorabilia. At the soda fountain, you can order Cheerwine slushies, milk shakes, and floats, as well as a slice of Cheerwine cake and Cheerwine fudge. In 2010, Krispy Kreme Doughnuts introduced a Cheerwine cream-filled doughnut. The company sold more than a million of that doughnut in just one month!

By 2016, after nearly 100 years of its existence, Cheerwine is available in 12 states, with hopes to be distributed in all 50 states in the near future. But some North Carolinians aren't sure how they feel about this! As author Jimmy Tomlin says, "Here in North Carolina, we can’t help but feel a little possessive when it comes to Cheerwine, and that’s especially true for those of us who grew up drinking it. We’re proud to claim it as our own and we’re not sure we want to share what we have — what we’ve had for nearly a century — with anyone else. ~ Does that make us Cheerwine snobs? Probably."

Jimmy goes on the say, "In the end, . . . we’ll share our Cheerwine bounty with the less fortunate who’ve been deprived for so long. Sharing is just what we do here in the South, whether it’s tomatoes from our garden, sugar from our pantry, wisdom from our life experiences or, in this case, Cheerwine from our refrigerators. Know this, though: Even if the soft drink reaches all 50 states, there’s one thing we can claim about our Cheerwine that the rest of the country cannot. It tastes like home. It tastes like North Carolina." (Read the full Our State magazine article >HERE<)

This year, Cheerwine celebrates its 100th anniversary!  Celebrations are planned in historic downtown Salisbury NC in May ~ and we hope you'll join us!

When you are in Salisbury NC shopping for your home or new commercial location, let Realtor® Greg Rapp introduce you to Cheerwine . . . to see what home tastes like! (704) 213-6846 ~ call or text today!

Greg Rapp 
Wallace Realty Co. 
704 213 6846 Mobile 
704 636 2021 Office 

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