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The Faygo Book

The Faygo Book

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The Faygo Book

273 pagine
2 ore
Oct 1, 2018


The Faygo Book is the social history of a company that has forged a bond with a city and its residents for more than a century. The story of Faygo, Detroit’s beloved soda pop, begins over a hundred years ago with two Russian immigrant brothers who were looking to get out of the baking business. Starting with little more than pots, pails, hoses, and a one-horse wagon, Ben and Perry Feigenson reformulated cake frosting recipes into carbonated beverage recipes and launched their business in the middle of the 1907 global financial meltdown. It was an improbable idea. Through recessions and the Great Depression, wartime politics, the rise and fall of Detroit’s population, and the neverending challenges to the industry, the Feigensons persisted. Out of more than forty bottlers in Detroit’s "pop alley," Faygo remained the last one standing.

Within the pages of The Faygo Book, author Joe Grimm carefully measures out the ingredients of a successful beverage company in spite of dicey economic times in a boom-and-bust town. Take a large cup of family—when the second generation of Feigensons gambled with the chance at national distribution while the odds were stacked against them—and add a pinch of innovation—not just with their rambunctious rainbow of flavors but with packaging and television advertising that infused Faygo with nostalgia. Mix in a quality product—award-winning classics (and some flops) that they insisted on calling "pop," despite the industry’s plea for a more grown-up name. Stir in a splash of loyalty to its locally hired employees, many of whom would stay with Faygo for decades. These are the values on which Faygo has hung its hat for generations, making it an integral part of communities across the country.

The Faygo Book is the story of a pop, a people, and a place. These stories and facts will tickle the taste buds and memories of Detroiters and Faygo lovers everywhere.
Oct 1, 2018

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The Faygo Book - Joe Grimm


Detroit has bonds with many institutions, but few are as old, as tight, or as fizzy as the city’s bond with Faygo.

These Faygo stories, which began shortly after 1900, when the automobile was still young, will tickle the taste buds and memories of Detroiters and Faygo lovers everywhere.

The Faygo Book is not a chronology. It is a social history that tells about Faygo and its hometown, a tumultuous industry, immigrant brothers who put their stamp on the American Century, and the people who love what the Feigenson family did and made. The book is organized by topic, not by date. For instance, you will find the long-running stories of sweeteners, bottling, and Faygo commercials in chapters of their own, rather than sprinkled about, like sugar, over Faygo’s more than one hundred years. This lets us peer into different facets of the story.

This is not a company history, either. It is not the product of lengthy interviews with Faygo executives or an examination of company archives, earnings reports, memos, and ledgers. The door remains open for Faygo to tell its story in its own way. The focus here is on the dreams and values of the Feigensons, who created the company and led it for nearly eight decades. It explores how the company forged a bond with Detroit and Detroiters, who saw Faygo as much more than a pop company. The book explores how National Beverage Corp. has sustained Faygo values in the more than thirty years since the Feigensons sold the company. Above all, this book is intended to be a story about people and loyalty.

At the heart of the book is Susie Feigenson, granddaughter of Ben Feigenson, who founded the company with his older brother, Perry. In several long interviews, she shared family memories and stories. She also shared articles, images, and artifacts that have been in her family’s homes since the 1980s. Her brother Ben, named after their grandfather, also provided some long-distance help. Susie’s love for her family, Faygo, and Detroit, as well as her editing, touch every page. In these pages, Susie Feigenson has more than kept up her role as keeper of the Feigenson flame.

Other people who helped, but who are not credited in the story, include Alex Scharg, who, as Susie Feigenson explained in the foreword, connected us after I mentioned my interest in telling the Faygo story. Without that, this book could not have happened.

Ed Golick, Tim Kiska, and Bill Kubota helped with the story of Faygo’s groundbreaking TV advertising. The long connection between Faygo, the Michigan State University marching band, and Remember When You Were a Kid was helped by trombonist Adam Mackay (another of my students at MSU), Chad Sanders, Jeremy Steele, and Bob Gould.

Ed Deeb told how, as a youngster working in his father’s store, he remembered stocking Faygo, and April Barbee told the story of Faygo-branded cupcakes. Songwriter, guitarist, author, and professor Brian Bowe connected me to Steve Miller, author of Juggalo: Insane Clown Posse and the World They Made.

Keith Wunderlich, author of Vernor’s Ginger Ale, helped clarify the Vernors-Faygo collaboration.

Norma Powell, who works at Campbell Ewald and explores Detroit on her Redpop Bike, introduced me to others in the advertising business, including Lew Baker and Michelle Rossow.

This Faygo story is based on the work of dozens of newspaper, magazine, broadcast, and online writers, reporters, and photographers. Collectively, their contributions show how journalism really can be the first draft of history. Hui Hua Chua, collections and user support librarian and journalism liaison at the Michigan State University Libraries, unlocked these resources. More than one hundred books and articles that went into the book are at listed in the Sources section.

Many articles came from the Detroit Free Press. Former Free Press photo editor Jessica J. Trevino took great care with the photographs in the book. Former Free Press assistant graphics editor Martha Thierry created the graphics. Kathy Kieliszewski, photo and video director at the newspaper, arranged for permission to use several wonderful photographs.

Two online archives in particular were of great help. One was the archive of the Detroit Jewish News (1942–) and the Jewish Chronicle (1916–1951). This resource, covering more than one hundred years, is available because of the William Davidson Digital Archive of Jewish Detroit History at It was the brainchild of publisher Arthur Horwitz.

The archive of the Associated Food and Petroleum Dealers publication, the Food Dealer, going back to 1965, is available online It is a trove of information about Detroit’s food and beverage industry. Especially helpful to this project was a regular feature about Faygo written by Mort Feigenson in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Websites, online forums, and social media were invaluable. Many leads showed up in items listed on eBay. Photo-sharing sites such as Flickr and Instagram helped, too. Comments with ideas and sources appeared on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Reddit. The online community was an unpredictable and powerful voice.

The section about television advertising is best told through videos, and links to more than twenty-five are in the Sources section at the end of the book. They will help tell the story much better than I can.

Thanks to all the people at Wayne State University Press who goaded me into doing The Faygo Book and then had to make it come out. They include interim director Kathryn Wildfong and her predecessor as director, Jane Ferreyra, as well as Gabe Gloden, former development and community engagement officer. Work in the trenches was done by senior production editor Carrie Downes Teefey; editorial, design, and production manager Kristin Harpster; senior designer Rachel Ross; marketing and sales manager Emily Nowak; and Annie Martin, editor-in-chief. They brought in copyeditor Lindsey Alexander and theBookDesigners.

Why We Love Faygo

Few companies have stuck to cities the way Faygo has stuck to Detroit. To many Detroiters, Faygo simply means Detroit. When people move away, they crave Faygo’s sweet memories and sweeter flavors. Mere mention of Faygo uncaps memories, as does the Faygo Boat Song, Remember When You Were a Kid, which celebrates comic books and rubber bands, climbing to the treetop, falling down and holding hands, tricycles and Redpop.

There are many reasons for this love affair. One is loyalty. Faygo was born, bred, and is still bottled in Detroit. But this kind of affecti on is not due simply to origins; it prevails because of Faygo’s persistence. That persistence has lasted more than a century.

Auto companies became fat in Detroit and then moved jobs south. Faygo stayed. While Detroit’s population started falling off a cliff in the 1950s, Faygo grew. Bottlers bought and swallowed other bottlers. Faygo’s Florida-based owner has kept the company in Detroit.

In an age where corporations have tried to turn local brands into national products without a locus, Faygo has remained Detroit’s pop. Its initially limited distribution range kept Faygo a local favorite. Pop did not easily travel distances then, so you could only find it locally. When people saw a Faygo ad in the window of a roadside filling station or convenience store on the way back to Detroit, they knew they were getting closer to home, sweet home. You could almost smell the Redpop. On Gratiot Avenue, where the product has been made since 1935, you really can. Today, having branched out to most states, Faygo holds onto its roots.

For decades, Faygo has been sold by mail order and now online to people who can’t get it where they live. A Detroiter who duplicated one of Detroit’s other staples, a coney island restaurant, near Las Vegas did not feel he had it right until he negotiated with Faygo for a regular supply of pop. Coney islands built in Los Angeles and Clearwater, Florida, had the same issue: they had to have their Faygo.

Faygo is served at Detroit-themed birthdays and at nuptials as favors and even the wedding cake. This arrangement features Faygo, a Detroit-style coney, Better Made potato chips, and custom labels on the bottles. Cake design by Chad Rabinovitz.

Photo credit: Gabe Gloden

Completing a circle, Just Baked took bakery-inspired Faygo flavors and turned them back into co-branded Faygo cupcakes in 2010.

Detroit radio program director and personality Slacker shows dual loyalty to Faygo and Flint, Michigan.

Photo credit: Slacker/98.7 AMP Radio

Faygo is a marquee attraction at the Detroit Dog Co. in the close-in suburb of Royal Oak. This is how it looked on the first day of the 2017 Arts, Beats and Eats festival. Inside, an upended Faygo vending machine is a base for its counter.

Photo credit: Joe Grimm

Faygo-loving pedal pushers vote with their feet on limited edition Detroit Bikes finished in (clockwise) grape, orange, cotton candy, Redpop, and Moon Mist. Photo credit: Blake Yard/Detroit Bikes

Motor City Creations offers candles in Faygo fragrances including Redpop, Rock & Rye, root beer, candy apple, and Moon Mist.

Photo credit: Motor City Creations, LLC


•When a lost two-year-old mixed terrier captured the city’s heart, people named the pup after the pop. They called it Faygo.

•In a contest to name the downtown hockey arena for Little Caesars pizza baron Mike Ilitch’s Red Wings, Faygo Dome was nominated and even featured in a newspaper artist’s rendering. It did not win.

•Detroit Bikes, which got rolling in the city’s startup boom, introduced limited edition bicycles in Faygo colors: Redpop, grape, cotton candy, orange, and Moon Mist.

•When the horrorcore rap group Insane Clown Posse was told, the night before a concert, not to spray twelve hundred liters of Faygo all over a

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