What Did That Building Used to Be - Chero-Cola/Nehi/RC

Sunday, November 20, 2005 - by Harmon Jolley
509 Main Street - home of Chero-Cola, Nehi, and Royal Crown from 1916 to 1970.  Click to enlarge.
509 Main Street - home of Chero-Cola, Nehi, and Royal Crown from 1916 to 1970. Click to enlarge.
- photo by Harmon Jolley

Main Street once had two types of businesses. There were retailers who were supported by the surrounding neighborhoods including Jefferson Heights and others in South Chattanooga. There were also manufacturers who utilized the Belt Line rail connections to receive raw materials and to ship finished goods. Still standing at 509 Main Street today is the former home of a manufacturer whose bottled concoctions were shipped throughout the region.

The prelude to the 509 Main structure actually began in 1905 way down in Columbus, Georgia where Claude Hatcher began making soft drinks to sell at his grocery. The enterprise was originally called the Union Bottling Works, but soon changed to Chero-Cola in honor of their flagship product.

According to “Tennessee: The Volunteer State 1769-1923 Vol. II” by John T. Moore, Charles Little took over the Chero-Cola plant in Rome Georgia in 1914. Then, in 1916, Mr. Little erected a two-story 60 by 137 foot building at 509 Main Street in Chattanooga to serve as home of Chero-Cola in that city. The bottler benefited from the proximity to the Belt Line rail connection to the main line in and out of town.

The Moore history further described Charles Little’s new Chattanooga operation as follows. “It is equipped with the latest low-pressure bottling machinery, each machine being driven by electric motors and they are entirely automatic.” The equipment could fill up to 750 bottles per minute. Mr. Little was also reported as having bottling plants in Huntsville, Memphis, and Shreveport.

In 1922, Charles Little sold the local Chero-Cola operation to Monterey, Tennessee-native Shirley A. Christian. Mr. Little pursued a new venture with his own soft drink company, Good Grape, which he co-founded with Joe S. Foster. Good Grape evolved into the Seminole Flavor Company, which introduced Double Cola in 1933.

Meanwhile, the Chero-Cola Company was undergoing changes of its own in the 1920’s. A new fruity flavor, Nehi, was introduced and soon outsold Chero-Cola. The parent company was renamed Nehi in 1928.

The company decided to rework its formula for Chero-Cola, and introduced its replacement, Royal Crown, in 1933. Royal Crown Cola, or “RC” to aficionados, was nationally advertised and endorsed by Hollywood celebrities. The low cost of an RC and a Moon Pie (another Chattanooga-made product) was thought by many to be the right price for an economical snack. The two were even celebrated in song.

Both the franchiser and the Chattanooga operation were renamed as Royal Crown in 1957. In 1970, RC left its previous home at 509 Main Street for 201 Broad Street, which Coca-Cola was vacating for new facilities on Amnicola Highway. The Lookout Plating Company took over the former RC building on Main.

In 1979, Royal Crown sold its downtown address to the Hamilton County Department of Education, and established a distribution plant on Polymer Drive. RC closed the plant two years later.

Charles D. Little died in 1978 at age 90, and Shirley Christian passed away in 1977 at age 89.

The building was later in use by County Commissioner Curtis Adams and his sons as Adams Tire Center. It was sold in 2004 to well-known sculptor and painter Rey Alfonso, who has his studio there.

Today, both RC and Double Cola can still be found on Chattanooga’s grocery store shelves. I have been unable to locate a Nehi, however, in any flavor – orange, grape, or peach –though they appear to be available via the Internet.

If you know where a Nehi can be found locally, or if you have memories of Chero-Cola, Nehi, or Royal Crown Cola, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.

201 Broad Street saw the coming and going of two brands of soft drinks.  Click to enlarge.
201 Broad Street saw the coming and going of two brands of soft drinks. Click to enlarge.
- Photo2 by courtesy of Chattanooga-Hamilton County Library

History Center Announces 2015 History Makers Award Honoree

The Chattanooga History Center has announced that its 10th Annual History Makers Award will honor U. S. Senator Bob Corker. The award recognizes local individuals or groups who have made significant contributions to Chattanooga, the region, the state, or the country. "As an entrepreneur, businessman,  volunteer, and elected official, Senator Corker's commitment to hard work ... (click for more)

Roosevelt Cabin Restoration Nearly Complete at Berry College

Through the historical preservation of buildings, Berry College in Rome, Georgia has been able to keep its rich history alive. Most recently the Roosevelt Cabin, one of the oldest buildings on the main campus, has been in the final stages of restoration and preservation. The cabin earned its name after former President Theodore Roosevelt had lunch there during his visit ... (click for more)

Abdulazeez Apparently Went Target Shooting In River Gorge Area Prior To Rampage That Killed 5

A 24-year-old Hixson man who went on a rampage and killed five military personnel at Chattanooga apparently went target shooting in the Tennessee River Gorge area just beforehand. A Chattanoogan said he was canoeing the day before the shooting and heard Mohammad Abdulazeez shooting in the woods in a remote area. The man, who said he thought he was being shot at, looked ... (click for more)

Columnist Says Navy To Bring Charges Against Commander Of Chattanooga Naval Center Who Fired At Shooter

The Navy plans to bring charges against Lt. Cmdr. Timothy White, who fired shots at a Hixson man who on July 16 rammed through a gate at the facility on Amnicola Highway and killed four Marines and a sailor, columnist Allen West wrote. He said he received a text message confirming the charges are imminent against the Chattanoogan, who is the father of six and who has acknowledged ... (click for more)

Chattanooga Is A Blessed Community

I am an American by birth and a Chattanoogan by the Grace of God. (A phrase I borrowed from the late Lewis Grizzard and modified) I grew up in Chattanooga / East Ridge – Anna B. Lacey Elementary, Dalewood Junior High, Brainerd High, degree UTC.  My family lived in Chattanooga until March of this year but I’m still up every month visiting friends.   I have been following ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: We Fight For Lieutenant Commander White

The United States Navy has run a tight ship since it was founded in October of 1776. You’ll recall that was when Capt. John Paul Jones began to forge the steel with the words, “I have not yet begun to fight.” Some years later Adm. David Farragut etched himself into Navy lore when he cried, “Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!” During the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lt. Howell Forgy ... (click for more)