Most South Portland residents are aware that we have a Coca-Cola bottling plant on Western Avenue near the airport. The plant that is there today, acquired by its current owners in 1988, has a long and interesting history.

Let’s take a look at how Coca-Cola ended up being bottled here in our community.

Turner Jones founded The Coca-Cola Bottling Plants, Inc. in 1937. He served as the company president through 1967, then remained on as the board chairman. Courtesy photo/Portland Sunday Telegram

The Coca-Cola Company itself is based in Atlanta. The company credits the inventor of the Coca-Cola formula as Dr. John Pemberton, who first invented the French Wine Coca as a patent medicine in 1885, then, due to local prohibition laws, came up with a non-alcoholic version of the tonic in 1886, which he called Coca-Cola.

In its early years, Coca-Cola was only sold as a fountain drink at soda fountains. The first time Coca-Cola was ever bottled was by Joseph Biedenharn at his Biedenharn Candy Company in Vicksburg, Mississippi, in 1894. With the beverage in a bottle, it could now be delivered to local customers.

In 1899, two lawyers from Tennessee negotiated a contract with the Coca-Cola Company which gave them the exclusive right to bottle and sell Coca-Cola throughout most of the United States. Their company, The Coca-Cola Bottling Company, began bottling in Chattanooga, and then soon began to subcontract the bottling to independent companies in other areas of the U.S.

In Maine, advertisements from as early as 1905 show Coca-Cola being sold at soda fountains. Ads in the Bath Daily Times included a coupon that customers could use to get a free glass of Coca-Cola at Swett’s Soda Fountains. The famous opera singer, Lillian Nordica (born in Farmington, Maine, in 1857) had begun endorsing Coca-Cola in 1904 and appeared in nationwide advertising for the company in 1905, as well.


The first Coca-Cola bottler that we’ve been able to find in Maine was the “Coca-Cola Bottling Company” branch of the Rumford Bottling Company in 1917. This appears to be how the first Coca-Cola bottlers came to be in our state; they were existing bottlers who obtained the rights to bottle in certain areas of Maine. These were originally 10-year licenses.

It was announced in February, 1917, that Coca-Cola Bottling Company would lease an existing building in Portland, at 536 Washington Ave. on Munjoy Hill, which it would begin work on immediately, to be in full operation by May. Another existing bottler, The Vincent Company in Auburn, became the Coca-Cola bottler for Androscoggin County in 1917. In Kennebec County, Glenwood Spring Company of Augusta announced its license to bottle there in December, 1917.

The famous opera singer from Maine, Lillian Nordica, began endorsing Coca-Cola in 1904. Her image appears on many early advertising pieces. Courtesy image

Coca-Cola Bottling Company, of Portland, operated from its Washington Avenue facility for several years, then consolidated its operations with another bottler, Ingalls Bros., and the combined company then operated from 36-38 Plum St. (a former street that ran parallel with Exchange Street).

As we wrote about last week, a 12-year salesman for the Coca-Cola Company of Atlanta, Arthur Ardrey, acquired the license to bottle and distribute Coca-Cola in Cumberland County in 1927. His company, Portland Coca-Cola Bottling Works, operated for 10 years at 80 Bell St. in Portland (that company changed its name to Casco Bottling Company in 1937 when its license to bottle Coca-Cola ended).

Our bottling company in South Portland originated with the next bottler.

Turner Jones, a Coca-Cola executive, resigned and moved to Maine in 1937 to found his own company, The Coca-Cola Bottling Plants, Inc. His company took over the franchises and bottling rights of the other existing Coca-Cola bottlers in Maine at that time, including Portland Coca-Cola Bottling Works, Vincent Company (Auburn), Old Scotch Co. (Augusta), and Pine Spring Bottling Company (Brunswick).


At its start-up in 1937, The Coca-Cola Bottling Plants, Inc. employed more than 100 people, operated a fleet of 22 delivery trucks, and established bottling plants and warehouses in Auburn, Bangor and South Portland. While the company had initially tried to locate its headquarters in Portland, those plans didn’t work out and, in June, 1937, the company acquired the property at 650 Main St., South Portland. The building had formerly been home to the Harold W. Morse Garage. After retrofitting the building as a bottling plant, the company held a grand opening on Nov. 3, 1937, so that the public could view the new operation.

Letterhead used by The Coca-Cola Bottling Plants, Inc. in 1959. Courtesy image

Company executives worked out of office space at the 650 Main St. bottling plant. While they did add on to the building a few times, the small site adjacent to residential homes eventually limited expansion possibilities. When city manager Bernal Allen began courting companies to move to the newly-created Western Avenue industrial area of South Portland, Coca-Cola Bottling Plants was a top candidate.

In 1966, the company announced its plans to build a 42,000-square-foot bottling plant there. Construction was completed in 1967. While the bottling operation moved to Western Avenue, the company maintained its corporate offices and some warehousing in the building on Main Street for many years. Toward the end of 1967, Turner Jones was succeeded as president and CEO by his son, Turner Jones, Jr. The father stayed on as chairman of the board of directors.

An advertisement for an open house at the new Coca-Cola bottling plant that appeared in the Portland Evening Express. Courtesy image

During the years when Turner Jones, Jr., was at the helm, the company went through a series of mergers; seven Coca-Cola bottlers in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont merged their operations, along with three bottlers in Mexico. This was a time of transition for all Coca-Cola bottlers, as the industry was changing. With the growth of larger retail corporations, doing business on a national and international scale, the bottlers needed to scale up their operations to be able to serve these larger accounts.

Some of the early and longtime executives of The Coca-Cola Bottling Plants, Inc. include:

– Turner Jones, president – first began working for the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta in 1923. He was the senior VP in charge of world sales and advertising for Coca-Cola in 1937, when he resigned to found his own company.


– Paul G. Roberts, executive VP and treasurer – Roberts had also formerly worked for the Coca-Cola Company in Atlanta; he came to work in South Portland in 1937. He would later move to Hartford, Connecticut, where he became the president and CEO of Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Southern New England.

– Norman L. Fogg, secretary and treasurer – Fogg joined the company in 1940. He was instrumental in the mergers of a number of Coca-Cola bottlers over the years, including the merger of our South Portland company with Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New York in 1978. Fogg retired in 1980.

The installation of a 37-foot-long automatic bottle washer in the Western Avenue bottling plant was announced in the Portland Evening Express on July 1, 1967. Courtesy image

– Turner Jones, Jr. – the son of the founder, Turner Jr. joined the company in 1948, working in all areas of production. He served as the plant manager in Auburn, Bangor and South Portland. He succeeded his father as president in 1967.

– Irving Wallace, plant manager – a Marine Corps and World War II veteran, Irv Wallace joined the company in 1952, serving in various capacities – office manager, route manager, sales supervisor, and plant manager. He was named the company’s vice president in 1968. When he retired in 1987, he was the executive VP and general manager of the company.

In 1978, Coca-Cola Bottling Plants was acquired by the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New York. The following year, Turner Jones died and Turner Jones, Jr., who had stayed on to help with the transition, retired.

Our company in South Portland was owned by the larger New York company until 1986. In August, 1986, Charles E.F. Millard (the former 19-year chairman and CEO of the New York bottler) and a group of investors acquired the (then known as) Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of New England (based in South Portland) through a leveraged buyout.

In 1988, KW, Inc., a subsidiary of Kirin Brewery Co. of Japan, which had already been acquiring other bottling companies in New Hampshire and Massachusetts, acquired the South Portland-based company from Millard and his investment group, merging the operations into its own. The resulting larger company was now known as Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Northern New England. The company changed its name again in 2019 to Coca-Cola Beverages Northeast.

South Portland Historical Society photo

South Portland Historical Society offers a free Online Museum with nearly 17,000 images available for viewing with a keyword search. You can find it at and, if you appreciate what we do, feel free to make a donation by using the donation button on the home page. If you have photographs or other information to share about South Portland’s past, we hope you will reach out to us. South Portland Historical Society can be reached at 207-767-7299, by email at, or by mail at 55 Bug Light Park, South Portland, ME 04106.

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society. She can be reached at

Comments are not available on this story.