Cheerwine – Soda of Salisbury

Fulton Heights was a very prestigious development when it opened in 1906 – everyone wanted to live here! Many of Salisbury’s most important developers and businessmen had homes here. That included Mr. L.D. Peeler – the CHEERWINE man.

Back in the early 1900s, there was a business in Kentucky called the Maysville Syrup Company that made Mint Cola. The guys who owned this company wanted to expand, and Salisbury looked like a great choice. It was a well-established town, centrally located for future growth, and on a rail system that could haul the huge barrels of syrup.

It just so happened that a man named Mr. L.D. Peeler owned a general wholesale store right next to the train depot in Salisbury. He had been interested in the soft drink business for some time, and this was his chance to break into the market. Peeler’s store had room in the basement to set up a bottling operation. So Mint Cola awarded Mr. Peeler and his investors the franchise to make their cola.

In a short time, Peeler began producing 160 cases of Mint Cola each day out of that basement and had his own delivery trucks by 1913. Because of World War I, many soft drink producers went out of business since sugar was in short supply. Mint Cola went bankrupt in 1917, but Mr. Peeler and his investors bought all the stock for their regional franchise and changed their name to Carolina Beverage Corporation, and they kept right on making Mint Cola.

About this time, Peeler and his team realized how popular the cherry-flavored fountain drinks were and decided to try something new. Late in 1917, they bought a unique cherry flavor derived from oil of almond from a flavor salesman out of St. Louis. It was naturally sweeter than other drinks with no more sugar required. Mr. Peeler mixed this with 11 other flavoring ingredients, including the Mint Cola base, to create CHEERWINE, named for its burgundy-wine coloring and cheery bubbles.

CHEERWINE grew in popularity throughout the Piedmont, and Mr. Peeler registered his trademark in 1926. About that time he also bought a lot in the popular Fulton Heights development, and in 1927 built the beautiful Italian Renaissance home at 607 Mitchell Avenue. His family and descendants lived in the house for 63 years, until 1990. There is also information that the man who was Mr. Peeler’s chemist – the one who mixed the 12 flavors to get the red bubbly drink – also lived in the 100 block of Mitchell Avenue in Fulton Heights.

Sadly, Mr. L.D. Peeler died in 1931, but he left a strong business to his son, C.A. Peeler, who had the vision to make CHEERWINE a success. Mint Cola continued to be produced until later in the 1930s, but with the Great Depression and Coca-Cola effectively monopolizing the market, Carolina Beverage chose to produce only its most popular brand. By the 1940s, C.A. Peeler had expanded the business throughout North and South Carolina, and in 1981 after many successful decades, Mark Ritchie, great-grandson of L.D. Peeler and grandson of C.A. Peeler, took the helm and doubled the expansion of the business in only five years. CHEERWINE is still as popular as ever today in the Carolina’s, and Fulton Heights is still the place to live in Salisbury!

Source: Salisbury Post, Rowan County Record of Deeds

(Written by Doug and Leslie Black of 629 Mitchell Ave.)