The Nehi Bottling Company in Cleveland celebrates its 90th anniversary today.
Homer Sledge Sr. of Alva founded the Nehi Bottling Company in 1927 in Cleveland.
The Nehi Bottling Company, the parent company was originally called the Cherry Cola Corporation and was formed in Columbus, GA, around the early 1900s.
"Nehi started out as a flavor line, a company out of Georgia, and in 1933, they developed an RC Cola which became their best seller," said Homer Sledge Jr.
Homer Sledge Jr. said that his father, grandfather, and his two uncles started the business and since his father’s death, he and his son Homer Sledge III have run the company.
Homer Jr. said, "Daddy started the business in 1927 in Cleveland, he started selling drinks on March 10, 1927, and he worked with it for several years. He died on January in 1992 and he had been active up until his death," said Sledge.
From 1927 to 1994, the soft drink company produced its drinks in Cleveland but stopped because it wasn’t able to produce cans.
Sledge said, "Cans are a totally different animal from bottled drinks and because we lost some key people from death on the production end of it, and we just decided to shut down."
Most of the soft drinks are now produced in Dallas, TX, or Evansville, IN.
Sledge, who will soon be 80, said he has enjoyed working with Nehi, and he joked he is going to stay until his time is up.
Sledge said, "Daddy was 90-years-old and six months, and I hope to live that long and expect to stay up here too."
Homer III is now running most of the business.
"I just try to stay out of the way and do what I have to do," said Sledge.
Nehi has 18 employees who distribute Nehi, Royal Crown and Seven Up, along with a few other soft drinks throughout its service territory.
Sledge said his father constructed the Nehi Bottling Company, which is currently located on 310 North Sharpe Ave.
"As the years went on, my father started adding on to the building and expanding it depth wise," said Sledge.
The original building was located south of where The Warehouse is, but that building no longer exists.
"I remember Daddy saying that he started with Nehi and that he is going to stay with Nehi, and I guess I'm just so hardheaded that they don't even ask me to do anything about changes," Sledge said, laughing.
Sledge has a collection of former bottles and cans, such as the old Cherry Cola bottles from the parent company and a Nehi Strawberry soda can from the 1900s.
"As you can see the bottling and cans were totally different back then than they are today, and this Nehi can was sent to us from the Cleveland State Bank a few years ago," Sledge said.
The can was found in a wall of the bank when they were expanding.
Sledge said the Nehi Bottling Company has come a long way since the beginning and he has many fond memories.
"Growing up in the business with Daddy, I was always here as a child, and if we were short of help, I remember feeding the bottle washer, cleaning the bottles, filling them and storing, it was lot.
"I just did what I had to do whether I liked it or not," he said, laughing.
Sledge said the company has been very fortunate in Cleveland and has also been very rewarding.
"I'm enjoying my time here, just hanging around. I can't complain," said Sledge.
Sledge said the company has been heavily involved in the community with other business and that they have been very fortunate to support them and help as much as they can.
The 90th anniversary dinner cocktail hour will begin at 6:30 p.m. and dinner will begin at 7 p.m.
"This dinner is for some of the workers, some of the past workers, people in town, the customers, everyone is welcomed to come out," Sledge said.