Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Florence, SC was founded in 1936 by partners, A.R. Avent, William “Bill” Carpenter and T.G. Bagwell. Avent had been manager of a Coca Cola plant in Wadesboro, NC and was looking for a Pepsi franchise. Most of the original Pepsi franchises had gone out of business during the 1920’s, and in 1936 many parts of the country were being re-franchised.
The original plant was located on North Dargan St. in a store building with an alley beside it where trucks were loaded and unloaded. Bottling machinery consisted of a used 4-wide Red Diamond Washer and a used Dixie Filler which would run 18 to 24 bottles per minute. It has been said that the plant workers repaired equipment half the night to get it to run the next day. There were 2 route trucks; one would carry 49 cases and the other 72 cases. These trucks would leave early in the morning and return each night. If the load had been sold, it was considered a good day.
In late 1938, Pepsi Cola moved into a new plant at 612 S. Irby Street. This plant had the most modern equipment available at that time, featuring an 8 wide washer and a 20 valve filler that ran 72 bottles per minute. There were approximately 10 trucks working the area by 1939. In 1941, a second bottling plant was built and opened in Marion as the company enjoyed a 76% increase in sales. By 1942, there were 15 trucks working the territory.
Between 1961 and 1964, Teem, Patio Orange, Grape and Diet Pepsi were added. In 1967, cans were introduced. As products and packages expanded in the 1960’s and 70’s, the business also continued to expand. In January 1974, a new plant located on I-20 Spur, was opened in Florence. This plant featured machinery which would run up to 600 bottles per minute, of 10 and 12 ounce product and could also run different sizes.
In June, 2005 the company was bought out by Carolina Canners, Inc., becoming Pepsi Cola of Florence, LLC. Pepsi Cola of Florence is still locally owned. In February of 2006, bottling was discontinued at our location and Pepsi Cola of Florence starting receiving all products from Carolina Canners in Cheraw. The construction of a new facility at 2499 Florence Harllee Blvd, in the Pee Dee Electric Cooperative Industrial Park, began in August, 2007 and was completed in May, 2008.
Pepsi Cola of Florence’s GM, Frank Avent retired in July, 2014 after 51 years of service. Les Ward, a resident of Florence, was hired as GM of Pepsi Cola of Florence in September, 2014. Jeff Stevens, also a current resident of Florence, is CEO of Carolina Canners.
Pepsi currently has 24 delivery routes and Pee Dee Food Service has 26 routes.