Dublin's tearful farewell to Dr Pepper

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by CRAIG CIVALE

WFAA

Posted on January 12, 2012 at 12:03 AM

Updated Thursday, Jan 12 at 9:37 AM

Dublin Bottling Works

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DUBLIN, Texas — Dublin Dr Pepper is no more.

The Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Company has sold its rights to produce the iconic beverage in a settlement over a long-running feud.

The plant opened more than a century ago, filling containers with Dr Pepper made with pure cane sugar. But the oldest Dr Pepper bottler in the world has now produced its final "pick me up."

The development is cutting deep, stripping the very identity of this small Erath County town 75 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

It is the conclusion of a lawsuit pitting Plano-based Dr Pepper Snapple Group and its most famous bottling plant — a 120-year-old facility that started building a brand that later defined this community.

"Every town wants to find something that's uniquely theirs, and Dr Pepper was uniquely ours," said Jeff Kloster, vice-president of Dublin Bottling Works.

Dublin was one of only a few facilities that produced Dr Pepper using the original cane sugar formula. It's been operated by the same family for four generations.

Dublin Bottling Works vice-president Jeff Kloster found it hard to choke back tears as he talked about the end of an era. "You can't help but feel bad, but my grandfather would've said, 'Keep going.'"

Kloster helped workers clear out Old Doc's Soda Shop on Wednesday. It's where eager customers stopped by to stock up on Dublin Dr Pepper one last time.

Earlier in the day, he broke the news to his employees and was forced to let 14 of them go.

"The workers here are all like family," Kloster said.

Those who remained spent the night taking down everything with the "Dublin Dr Pepper" name, and what wasn't cut down or put away was covered up.

"It's been pretty tough not knowing what's really going to happen," said bottling plant employee Lee Jones. "Everybody was kind of hoping this wasn't going to happen, but it did."

It is a piece of Texas history that drew hundreds of thousands of people to Dublin, Texas every year.

"We appreciate all of the support we've had for 120 years," Kloster said. "Couldn't do it without them."

Starting Thursday, a new era begins in Dublin. When the bottling plant reopens on Thursday, it will no longer be called the Dublin Dr Pepper Bottling Company; it will become "Dublin Bottling Works," and while it will still make sodas, it will no longer produce or distribute the soft drink that made it famous for more than a century.

You will still be able to buy the cane sugar drink in Dublin, but "Dublin Dr Pepper" will henceforth be simply "Dr Pepper."

Dr Pepper Snapple Group is taking a lot of heat on social media sites after its decision to end its relationship with the Dublin bottler.

Just about all of WFAA's Facebook feedback was posted in support of Dublin. Alex Guzman summed it up with one word: "BOYCOTT."

Vicki Shelton said, "there is nothing better than having it in a real glass bottle and made with real sugar."

And Pamela Nishimoto said, "BAD P-R MOVE, DR PEPPER."

But Michael Davis at SMU's Cox School of Business doesn't think this will hurt the company in the long-term. "Dr Pepper is walking a fine line to protect bottlers and protect its image as sort of a 'good guy' company," he said.

A representative for Dr Pepper Snapple Group emphasized that Dr Pepper made with cane sugar will continue to be available.

It just won't be made in Dublin anymore.

E-mail ccivale@wfaa.com

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