Nehi Bottling Company has been a Cleveland fixture for 85 years

by Becky Gillette

Published: May 13,2012

Tags: CLEVELAND, Nehi Bottling Company, Royal Crown Cola

Photo by Tyler Rayburn

It was a far different world back in 1927 when the Nehi Bottling Company was founded in Cleveland. Most soft drink companies manufactured their products locally because dirt roads made it difficult to transport products very far. Today the soft drink industry has a far different model with most production consolidated in regional bottling centers.

As the Nehi Bottling Company celebrates its 85th year in business, it no longer manufacturers the soft drinks. But the company still employs 18 people distributing Nehi, Royal Crown (RC) Cola, Dr. Pepper, Seven Up, A & W, Country Time, Sunkist and Canada Dry products throughout its service territory.

Its products may not be the best sellers in the industry, but it certainly has loyal fans.

Homer Sledge Jr., 75, still enjoys going to work regularly.

“My father worked here until he was 90 and six months old,” said Sledge, whose favorite drink is RC. “If I live that long, I expect I will stay up here, too. My son (Homer Sledge III) is doing most of it. I’m just hanging around. It has been an interesting and rewarding business to me. I can’t complain.”

The parent company for Nehi was formed in Columbus, Ga., in about 1905. In 1933 the Nehi Corp. came out with RC Cola, which became very popular. In the early 60s the company’s name was changed from Nehi to Royal Crown Cola Corp.

“But we have still stayed as the Nehi Bottling Co. because Daddy wanted to and I’m more hardheaded than he was,” Sledge said. “We’ve stayed with Nehi because we started with Nehi.”

The business began in a building near their present location that no longer exists. Sledge’s father constructed the current building at 310 North Sharpe Street in 1948. The building next to the railroad tracks was on the route that earlier was U.S. 61.

Nehi Bottling Company currently distributes in an area 60 miles to the north, 60 miles to the east, 15 miles to the south and 20 miles to the west to the Mississippi River. Most of its product distributed is manufactured in Indiana or Texas.

Photo by Tyler Rayburn

High gasoline prices have made it more expensive to transport products. While it hasn’t crippled the business, “it sure would be nice to have $2 per gallon fuel instead of nearly $4 per gallon fuel,” Sledge said.

Sledge finds it fun and rewarding for the company to be actively involved in the community, including supporting Delta State University (DSU) and the Chamber of Commerce.

“We just try to do whatever we are asked to do,” Sledge said. “We are fortunate in Cleveland to have Delta State and an active Chamber of Commerce. We try to do what we can do to support them. The chamber and business people have worked hard to make Cleveland a beautiful place to do business.”

Libbi Logan, president of the Cleveland-Bolivar Chamber of Commerce, said Nehi Bottling Company supports the entire community.

“They are willing and able to support whatever is going on in Cleveland,” Logan said. “We recently had a fun run for St. Jude, and they were more than happy to donate all the products and drinks for that event. They are a huge asset. These are people who are dependable, familiar faces in the community. Several generations still work there in the local office. It is just someone you know you can trust.”

Photo by Tyler Rayburn

More on Nehi Bottling Company

Date Founded: 1927

Owner(s): The Sledge family (662) 843-3431

Email: nehi@cableone.net

Coolest thing about business: “Historic business that keeps on trucking soft drinks to the Delta”

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12 Responses to “Nehi Bottling Company has been a Cleveland fixture for 85 years”

  1. msu_scrappy Says:

    Nice little story on Nehi Bottling (and RC). I’m definitely partial to Nehi and RC when it comes to soft drinks: Nehi Grape, Diet Rite White Grape, RC, A&W, and Upper10 (and others). The Nehi soda varieties were always good for making homemade icecream.

    I remember having Nehi in south Georgia (Tifton) and the Nehi / RC plant in Kosciusko.

  2. Your Brother Says:

    The Sledge family is a land mark in Cleveland and Bolivar County. They have been a great example of hard work and leadership and common sense. Homer thanks for the RC’s over the years… they go great with “Moon Pies!”

    Wain Reily, son of ‘Wig’ Reily

  3. randy ball Says:

    did not know that was so close to home.. will buy more of their products in support of their supporting our communities. Thank RC and NEHI.

  4. Ken Qualls Says:

    I would like information about rhe NEHI bottling company located in Centralia, IL sometime in the 1930′s – 1950′s. Any information and or pictures will be appreciated

  5. ANDREA MCMILLAN Says:

    TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN, CAN YOU TELL ME WERE I CAN PURCHASE NEHI SODAS? ME AND MY SISTER HAVE BEEN TRYING TO FIND OUT WERE WE CAN GET IT. WE AS CHILDREN COULD NOT WAIT TILL THE SUMMER TO GO TO VIRGINIA TO VISIT OUR GRANDMOTHER SO WE COULD GET NEHI POP AND TO BRING IT BACK WITH US HERE IN COLUMBUS. MY FATHER WOULD LOAD OUR STATION WAGON UP WITH NEHI SODA THINKING IT WOULD BE ENOUGH TO LAST FOR AWHILE BUT IT WOULD ONLY LAST…….MAYBE MONTH……FOND FOND MEMORIES OF MY PARENTS……. SO PLEASE GIVE INFORMATION ON HOW WE CAN PURCHASE THIS TERRIFIC SODA.

    SINCERELY,
    ANDREA MCMILLAN

  6. Debra Jackson Says:

    Can you help me find the distributors for North and South Carolina Nehi

  7. Donald J. Blake Says:

    Where can I get Nehi Soda in the New Mexico-Arizona Area ?

  8. William Ewing Says:

    Can you help me find a distributor in Missouri for Peach Nehi?

  9. Christie Says:

    Where can I find Nehi grape soda in Northern Kentucky, Cincinnati Ohio or the Southern part of Mississippi? I can find the peach nehi Hattiesburg Mississippi but not the grape. I know years ago there was RC Cola & Nehi plant there because my dad worked there. Then the closed down and every where carried the drinks for years. Then about 8 years ago they quit selling the grape. I love the grape soda , it taste better than any other grape soda made. I went home to Mississippi recently and on my way home I stopped for gas in Priceville Alabama and I found a 20oz bottle of grape Nehi and bought what they had. I looked for the 12pk cans but didn’t see any. That first drink hooked me again on the best drink ever made. Now I am in search for where the closes place is to the 3 places I listed at the beginning because I am willing to drive where one is if it’s not too far like Priceville Alabama is from KY and my parents house in MS. I like the cans but will settle for bottles too. Please help me find the Nehi Grape Soda!!!!!!!
    Best Grape Soda ever made!!!!!!

    Thank you,

    Christie

  10. Stephanie Says:

    Where can I get 2ltr Nehi Peach? We live in Houston TX, and I have looked everywhere! It makes the best homemade peach ice cream ever! Thank you

  11. Bruce Van Dyke Says:

    As a child I use to set outside by a windoy and watch the bottles go down the line to be filled with pop in Wyoming Michigan. Once a d awhile an employee would see us on a hot summer day and bring us some to drink. That was in the late 40′s or early 50′s. I loved that drink.

  12. Urail Mackey Says:

    I love Nehi Peach soda, but since I live in Plainview Tx the only place I have found it is when we go to Tyler Tx. I would like to know how much you charge for a case?

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