Monday, January 26, 2015

Pure Spring Soda Company Ottawa

Such a fond taste memory drinking this as a child in Ottawa, Canada.
I don't think there was ever a better tasting ginger ale! 

Pure Spring was a soda company started in the early 1900's 
by the Mirsky family, descendents of Ottawa's first Rabbi.

PURE SPRING - Ottawa's Soft Drink Company

In 1905, a 19 year old man in Ottawa started bottling the spring water that came out of a limestone rock formation on “Nanny Goat Hill” near LeBreton Flats. From those humble beginnings a soft drink empire was started.

David Mirsky was the son of Jacob Mirsky, Ottawa’s first Rabbi. When David was 14 he entered the workforce as a “newsie”, peddling magazines, snacks and soft drinks on a CPR train. Within five years he had worked his way up to freight agent and started work in the CPR station itself. It was there that David noticed the incredible volume of soft drinks being shipped from all over the country into Ottawa. He began to wonder why soft drinks couldn’t be manufactured locally.

The family stories say that David began to collect glass bottles (which were quite scarce at the time) and return them to Bradings Brewery at LeBreton Flats where, after a time, he struck a deal with them to be able to tap the spring water that ran down the escarpment on Nanny Goat Hill, near what is Booth and Albert Street today.

David initially named his company “The Ottawa Bottle and Trading Co.” and his first product was simply a five gallon can of spring water. Deliveries were done by horse and wagon in the summer and by sleigh in the winter. This switched to trucks in the 1920’s.

When David continued to notice the amounts of ginger ale and ginger beer being imported from England, he switched to adding flavours and carbonation to his water. It was at this point in the 1920’s that he renamed his company “Pure Spring”, the name that would endure for the next 60 odd years.

His early operation was a modest one, using hand operated equipment in his own home in the evenings to create his products. Over the years though, David introduced two of his own sons into the business; Norman, who focused on product development, and Mervin, who focused on sales and promotion.

Mervin left the business for a time to fight in WWII, but upon his return a variety of expansion plans and innovative ideas were instituted. One of their greatest feats was to develop a formula that would retain carbonation in their drinks for at least 24 hours - a huge step forward in the industry. The Mirsky’s were also credited with bringing twist caps and soda cans to North America from England. By 1969, Pure Spring had increased sales 3000% over the last two decades.

Pure Spring products could be found in Canada from the Maritimes, to Alberta and up to the Arctic Circle. Elsewhere, products were found in the US, West Indies, Bermuda and Dominican Republic.

At its peak, it was said that Pure Spring had annual sales in the $50-million range, all stemming from their Ottawa production plant on Belfast Road. It was at that time the largest independent soft drink firm in Canada.

Their best known flavours were Ginger Ale, Honee Orange, Gini (a gin and Gini was apparently a very popular summer drink), Minted Grape and Cream Soda, but you could also get One Cal Cola, Brio Chinotti, Black Bing Cherry, Strawberry, Grapefruit and Lime, and for a while, EXPO Chocolate (made especially for Expo 67).

The Mirsky family eventually sold Pure Spring to the soft-drink giant Crush International in the mid-1960’s, though Mervin Mirsky continued to run it until about 1987.

I'll leave you with a quote from the incredibly hard working, innovative, industrious and resilient Mervin Mirsky - "When I see a need for something or I see an opportunity, I don't sit on my ass."

Photo © Hank LeClair

Patti Friday, Photojourno, reporting from inside 'The Art Dept.' at the international 'Embassy of Ideas'. Reading. Listening. Learning. Improving. Hanging out with successful people. Photographer. Pirate. Bubby. CANADA @pattifriday

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