Pepsi opens new Suffolk facility

Published 9:52 pm Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Suffolk leaders and officials from the Pepsi Bottling Group got together on Wednesday to celebrate the continuation of a relationship that has spanned more than a century.

With the construction of a new 11,000 square-foot distribution facility to replace the company’s former building at 2595 Holland Road, the company cemented a relationship that was at some risk of being severed, according to company officials.

Describing company discussions and proposed plans that would have resulted in the distributor moving its operations to Isle of Wight, or even out of Western Tidewater altogether, William Reeser, vice president and general manager of Pepsi Bottling Group said Suffolk is a good fit.

“The company landed right back in the city of Suffolk, right where it belonged, actually,” he told a group of city and company officials gathered for a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“We’re excited that Pepsi decided to stay in Suffolk,” Mayor Linda T. Johnson told the crowd. “I can assure you that we’re going to be drinking a lot of Pepsi here in Suffolk.”

New York-based Pepsi Bottling Group is the world’s largest manufacturer, seller and distributor of Pepsi-Cola beverages, according to company officials. The company’s history in Suffolk dates back to at least 1907, though corporate records do not reveal when the first city facility opened, General Manager Ron Lewis said.

Lewis, who has worked at the Suffolk site for 21 years, has a loose-leaf notebook in his office with a copy of an ad the company ran in 1907 in the Suffolk Herald. The book also contains a photo of the old Holland Road location, which stood for 50 years before Pepsi officials decided to tear it down and build a new facility in its place.

Larry Gunnerman, the construction project manager for PBG, showed those attending the event an old bottle that had been found when city workers were excavating for a project on Hall Avenue, where the company’s first Suffolk bottling plant was located.

“This bottle tells of the longstanding relationship between Pepsi and the city of Suffolk,” Gunnerman said.

The new building is Pepsi’s third Suffolk facility. During construction, the company’s 25 full-time employees worked in a rented warehouse on Lummis Road for six or seven months, Lewis, the plant manager, said. They have been in the new building for about 45 days.

“It’s remarkable when you see people expanding when so many people around us are having a hard time,” Mayor Johnson said. “Thank you for your commitment.”