Thursday, October 20, 2005

DR. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band

Fortunately for me and my Dr. Pepper addiction, we only live about 85 miles from the fair city of Dublin, Texas, the home of Pretty Peggy Pepper. You can read about the history of Dublin Dr. Pepper here.

A fun bit of "bet you didn't know that" trivia: "most folks don't know that the name the Beatles originally wanted for what would become their most famous album was in fact Dr. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band. When the band found out that a U.S. soft drink company had rights to the name, they changed the "Dr." to "Sgt.," and the rest is history. And since bottles of Dr Pepper (the period after the abbreviation for "Doctor" was dropped in the 1950s for stylistic reasons) appeared in the Beatles movie Let It Be, it's safe to say the Lads from Liverpool were Peppers too."

From the Star Telegram today:

Dublin Dr Pepper comes a long way

Retailers use 'unofficial' network to obain cult favorite; fast-food chain now giving it a try

By Andrea Jares

Star-Telegram Staff Writer

For some Tarrant County businesses, it's paying to be a Pepper.

Dublin Dr Pepper -- made with sugar rather than the ubiquitous corn syrup -- has added fizz to many retailers' sales as distribution becomes more reliable. The drink gained presence in the area this year when fast-food chain Chicken Express started using a new concentrated form developed for fountain drinks.

As a result, drink sales are up at Chicken Express -- 70 percent at the Weatherford store, said Nancy Stuart, who with her husband, Richard, franchises the restaurant chain.

"It amazed us how many people wanted that Dr Pepper," she said. "It used to be secondary to Coke, but most of the time it overtakes Coke sales."

Other places are getting the same effervescent reaction. People come to Central Market in Fort Worth every day for bottles of the soft drink. Market Street in Colleyville sometimes gets shop owners who stock up when their own supply has run out. Albertsons, which used to sell the drink by customer request only, recently started stocking the 8-ounce bottles in some stores.

Almost all carbonated soda bottling companies replaced sugar with less-expensive corn syrup in the 1970s, but the Dublin bottler, about 90 miles southwest of Fort Worth, never switched. The problem for the cultish following of Dublin Dr Pepper drinkers has been finding the stuff.

Not only is the Dublin bottling company the smallest of Dr Pepper's bottlers, churning out 250,000 cases a year, it has a distribution range of only about 40 miles. That means Fort Worth-area residents are normally in for a road trip if they want to get the drink.

"Our limitation is our area -- literally, you have to come and get it," said Jeff Pendleton, creative manager at the bottling company. Even those who make the trip face another limitation: a 20-case purchase maximum.

The bottles of Dublin Dr Pepper arrive in Fort Worth through a grass-roots distribution system of entrepreneurs. The company is not affiliated with the network but cheerfully acknowledges it, even offering T-shirts recognizing the "bootlegger" enterprise at its gift shop.

Jane Roberts, owner of Joe's Pasta and Pizza on Grapevine Highway in Hurst, said the distribution is still spotty: "We have to hunt it up now." But it has improved enough for more businesses to offer the drink in Tarrant County.

Charles Brizius of Dallas, treasurer of the Dr Pepper Collector's Club, said that's good news for fans of the original recipe.

"People who are purists would not drink anything else," he said.

At Hall's Grocery in Colleyville, the Dublin Dr Pepper is among other specialty drinks such as Mexican versions of Coca-Cola, Pepsi and Sprite. The Dr Pepper is the most popular and by far the hardest to get, said Merindy Hall, who works at the store and who has hauled cases from Dublin. There are many outlets for Mexican Coke, she said, but Dublin Dr Pepper is made in only one place.

Chicken Express, based in Mineral Wells, started offering Dublin Dr Pepper as a fountain drink this spring, using the bottler's new concentrate at a couple of locations. Nancy Stuart said about 25 of the restaurants offer it now as word of the great sales has spread to franchise owners.

"One person did not make the decision; they saw the incredible increase in their sales," Pendleton said. "It brings people in; they love the taste."

Russ Nickens is one of those franchisers. He has noticed plenty of repeat Dr Pepper customers at his Chicken Expresses in Hurst and southeast Arlington.

"It's something I'll keep the next 30 years," he said.

"It amazed us how many people wanted that Dr Pepper. It used to be secondary to Coke, but most of the time it overtakes Coke sales."

MAP: Dublin: Source of original formula Dr Pepper. STAR-TELEGRAM

No comments: