Triple XXX

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For other uses, see Triple X.
The traditional barrel logo from the Issaquah, Washington restaurant

Triple XXX is a brand of root beer made in the United States.

History[edit]

1895[edit]

1895 saw the start of The Galveston Brewing Company at 34th and Post Office Street in Galveston, Texas. It was started by Anheuser-Busch along with some local investors.

The brewery had an estimated 10,000 barrels of its beer beverage. It was only sold locally under the name "Hi Grade." Its keg beer was packaged in steel banded barrels of oak which were marked with "XXX".

1900–1913[edit]

When a storm hit Galveston Island, business was temporarily halted. The accompanying sea surge swept over the island, and 6,000 lives were lost.

In the wake of the disaster, The Galveston Brewing Company was one of the surviving commercial establishments. Galveston would rebuild and resume brewing Hi Grade beer for the locals. When 1903 hit, the City of Galveston constructed an elevated seawall along its beach front. The wall was built to protect the island from flooding in future hurricanes. The Galveston Brewing Company added another brand during the wall's construction. It was called "Seawall Bond." It was created to commemorate the "invincible" new Galveston Seawall. Shortly thereafter the brewery started an ice plant which had a daily output of 100 tons of "pure crystal ice." By 1913 they constructed a bottling plant which adjoined the brewery with a capacity of 30,000 bottles a day.

Between 1900 and 1908, soft drink syrups started to be sold by The Galveston Brewing Company under the name "XXX." At the time, the company's resident chemist developed a wide array of flavors, such as: root beer, ginger ale, strawberry, lemon-sour, lemon, orange, chocolate, cream soda, sarsaparilla, cream, grape, and apple-juice. The brand's United States Patent Office registration statement noted that the trademark had been continuously used since at least as early as April, 1908.

1916–1918[edit]

In 1916, the State of Texas acted to prohibit alcohol in advance of the looming enactment of the 18th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This forced the closure of many breweries in the state including The Galveston Brewing Company. The owners of Galveston Brewing Company decided to re-organize the company thus changing the name from Galveston Brewing Company to Southern Beverage Company. It would then change over its equipment to producing "XXX" soft drinks. The soft drinks were primarily ginger ale and root beer.

In 1918, the owners of Southern Beverage Company acquired an additional trademark for its "XXX" brand of soft drinks. Reflecting on the exuberance of the day, it seems that if "XXX" was good, then "Triple XXX" had to be, as the brand's new slogan proclaimed, "The Aristocrat of Them All"! The company would then expand its horizons. They set their sights on targeting new territories. Thus, ten "outside" salesmen were hired. Throughout the next decade Southern Beverage Company experienced huge growth of the brand's sales volume and areas of distribution.

1923–1928[edit]

In 1923, licensed distributors of Southern Beverage Company included over 150 Triple XXX bottlers and approximately 100 Triple XXX "Thirst Stations." The locations included Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, Illinois, Indiana, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.

The largest distributor of the brand outside of Texas was called A. H. Rutherford & Sons of Renton, Washington. The Rutherfords designed a unique "twin barrel" for the Triple XXX root beer restaurants. The restaurants became popular along the west coast from southern California to Washington. Triple XXX restaurants were also operated in the Vancouver, British Columbia area.

By 1927, Southern Beverage Company decided to restructure and re-organize. Triple XXX Company was formed as the parent company and Triple XXX Bottling Company was kept as the company's local bottling plant. The parent company now known as Triple XXX Company kept expanding the brand well outside of the Galveston territory. By 1928, they added cola flavor to their line of soft drinks. Triple XXX cola was dispensed through barrels and put up in bottles as was Triple XXX Root Beer. Although cola was gaining popularity, root beer was still considered the favorite at that time.

The "Roaring Twenties" marked some of company's best years. By 1928, it was reported that Triple XXX Company employed 40 salesmen who covered distribution of Triple XXX soft drinks in 35 states. Even Mississippi steamers were licensed to sell Triple XXX root beer.

1932–1945[edit]

A Seattle Triple XXX franchise in 1940

As the 1930s came along, many companies were hit hard and Triple XXX Company was one of them. Thus, it was re-organized under the original name of Galveston Beverage Company in 1932. The United States alcoholic beverage "prohibition amendment" was repealed the following year. Galveston Beverage Company would then merge with Magnolia Brewery in Houston. Shortly thereafter a new name was chosen for the company. The name chosen was Galveston-Houston Breweries, Incorporated. Thus the combined companies resumed brewing beer at both the Galveston and Houston breweries. "Southern Select" was a new brand of beer was brewed and sold at its Galveston brewery while "Magnolia" beer was brewed and sold at its Houston brewery. The brewery still however brewed Triple XXX root beer and other types of soft drink syrups and flavors for its licensed soft drink bottlers, soda fountains, and Triple XXX "Thirst Stations".

The years that followed in the "Dirty Thirties" were especially tough not only for the economy, but also on sugar rations due to the World War II years of 1941–1945. This most certainly contributed to the resulting thinned ranks of Triple XXX "Thirst Stations" and Triple XXX soft drink bottlers and distributors. As the breweries were continuing to age, an ownership change would soon take place.

1953[edit]

By 1953, the owner of Galveston-Houston Breweries, Incorporated was ready to settle down and retire. He willfully agreed to sell the company to the accountant and his long-time friend. The new owner had plans for the Triple XXX brand and the brewery itself. The friend then incorporated another company. The company was called Stenzel Corporation with hopes of purchasing. The name company name was called Galveston-Houston Breweries, Inc..

A few years later Galveston-Houston Breweries, Inc. would sell off Galveston and Houston properties, equipment, and brand names to a larger company. The company who bought it was The Falstaff Brewing Corporation. The Falstaff Brewing Corporation would keep the Triple XXX brand while Southern Select and Magnolia production would be halted and discontinued all together.

The soft drink portion of Triple XXX was all that was remaining of the Galveston-Houston Breweries, Inc. after the sale. Thus, the company's name was changed yet again and this time it was changed Triple XXX Corporation and it became independent of its breweries roots as it did in the "Roaring Twenties."

Late 1950s[edit]

Issaquah, Washington restaurant, one of two remaining

With the unexpected death of the new owner, the company was struggling to hang on. It didn't help matters that in the late 1950s consumers were becoming enamored with fast food outlets. More and more Triple XXX "Thirst Stations" were disappearing. As well, licensed bottlers were also being lost through attrition.

The widow of the deceased owner created a new management team. The agreement and manager saw the move of the headquarters to the Wright Dr. Pepper Bottling Company in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. However, the corporation's registered office remained in Houston. The new managers set about a vigorous program of calling on independent soft drink bottlers to obtain new franchisees for Triple XXX root beer.

1960s[edit]

When the 1960s came about, nobody saw the follow development occur. In 1960, United States Food and Drug Administration released a ruling that sassafras (oil of safrole) as a food and beverage ingredient was suspect as a carcinogen. Many items were no longer allowed to use it and that included root beer. Beverage companies were given a bit of time or a "grace period" to re-formulate their root beer products.

Triple XXX sought the help of an independent flavor laboratory in New Orleans. With the help of the laboratory, Triple XXX was able to retain its distinct flavor. But then came the problem of the foamy head characteristics of the root beer. To many it was irreplaceable. Sometime later, the chemist would search and find alternative ingredients that were close enough to produce the appearance of "draft style" root beer. And most important for fans of Triple XXX root beer, its distinctive creamy root beer taste was preserved.

In 1962, the management group of Triple XXX Corporation was reporting progress. The claim was that 27 soft drink bottlers and fountain syrup distributors were a part of the franchise. But the number of bottlers were down, though reasons were not known. By the late 1960s, concerned Dr. Pepper bottlers who were also longtime franchisees for Triple XXX root beer proposed to the owner of Triple XXX Corporation that new ownership and management was needed in order to preserve the brand.

1969–1978[edit]

In 1969, the company's headquarters were relocated to Orange, Texas after controlling shares of the Triple XXX Corporation were bought by the Dr Pepper Bottling Company of Orange, Texas. After the purchase of the company, the new owner wanted preserve the production and distribution of Triple XXX root beer and flavors for its bottlers and fountain supply distributors.

At the time Triple XXX was still highly regarded as old time root beer. Also during that time, the development in the market was limited in many ways. It was limited to serving its existing bottlers and distributors. The Dr Pepper Bottling Company of Orange, Texas sold their Dr Pepper business to Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Beaumont. But with the sale of Dr Pepper, Triple XXX was not included. Now with the owner wanting to retire, he decided to pass the legacy onto a new owner. By this time the Triple XXX franchise roster had shrunk to 5 bottlers and 2 fountain drink distributors.

1978–1979[edit]

In 1978 another company bought the Triple XXX Corporation. The Lydick Corporation, Houston, Texas bought all related "Triple XXX" assets. This purchase included namely the registered trademarks, formulas, and franchises from the Triple XXX Corporation in Orange. After the sale of the Triple XXX Corporation (Galveston, Houston, and Orange), the company surrendered its corporate charter and name. The Lydick Corporation changed its name to Triple XXX Corporation, Houston, Texas.

With the new owners of the Triple XXX Corporation in place, it started an aggressive marketing campaign, franchising exclusive territorial distribution rights to the brand to a number of southwestern Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper/Seven-Up bottlers. Also updated was the packaging and advertising material. The new logo featured the Triple XXX root beer logo in red and yellow over a rich chocolate brown background, with red and yellow bands to highlight the top and bottom of the label. Using the sugary brand's appeal of the past, the phrase "Tastes like root beer used to taste" was added to all packaging and promotional materials. The new logo design and slogan were unveiled at the 1979 National Soft Drink Association Exposition in Dallas.

Also during this time new promotional materials targeted at the consumer were developed. The three color theme was carried out for merchandising items such as posters, banners, shelf talkers, bottle neck ringers, and table display cards. The company also produced television and radio spots that aired in select markets. Promotional activities varied from market to market, and included dispensing free samples in chain stores, special feature pricing for holidays and weekend promotion periods, as well as distributing price-off coupons in local stores and newspapers. The distributors of the brand started selling root beer from special events tents and trailers at local events in their markets.

After this hard marketing campaign, the results were promising. Present bottlers were retained and a new group of Coca-Cola and Dr Pepper bottlers were franchised. The number of franchises grew to 25 bottlers and syrup distributors. Geographically, the brand's packaged drink and fountain drink availability expanded into seven Central and Southwestern states.

1980–1985[edit]

In 1980, the soft drink industry changed dramatically. Faced with generation turnovers and potentially large investments to upgrade production equipment, longtime family-owned bottlers began merging or closing. Soft drink flavors were revised after these businesses combined. This development resulted in about 20 root beer brands competing for distribution through a declining number of soft drink bottling companies.

The consolidation trend accelerated through the 1980s and into the 1990s. The Triple XXX company recognized during the mid-1980s that there were not enough independent bottlers available to package the brand's root beer and ship it off directly to stores. By 1985, canning and bottling was halted, although fountain drink distribution continued through soda fountains and restaurants.

1990s[edit]

Throughout the past decade, the number of independently owned soft drink bottlers declined through mergers and acquisitions. The decline was so bad that nearly all distribution territories in the United States were served by only three major brand soft drink bottlers, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola and Dr Pepper/7-Up. Also, each cola company's parent franchise company developed or distributed their own root beer and the franchisees were only allowed to distribute that brand in their territories. That left the remaining independent root beer brands searching for viable alternate routes to market, quite a challenge.

2000s[edit]

"Triple XXX" is featured in the Dr Pepper Museum and Free Enterprise Institute in Waco, Texas as a historic Texas soft drink brand. The brand's limited availability continues to generate frequent consumer inquiries and requests. Triple XXX root beer in 12 ounce glass bottles is sold online through its website, which has a link to its distributors. Only two Triple XXX root beer restaurants still exist, in West Lafayette, Indiana and Issaquah, Washington. The formula for the root beer and the trademark are currently owned by the Triple XXX Root Beer Corp., West Lafayette, IN.[1]

West Lafayette Triple XXX[edit]

West Lafayette, Indiana restaurant, one of two remaining

The West Lafayette, Indiana Triple XXX store was opened in 1929 by Bert Wright and continues to operate as one of the only two Triple XXX restaurants in existence today. It also holds the distinction of being the first and oldest drive-in restaurant in Indiana. In its long history, the restaurant has had many owners, including Tom Comingore, Norm Karner, and even an investor group including Russell Tarter. Jack Ehresman, a longtime diner, was working as a dishwasher when he started asking the then-owner if he could purchase it, and eventually became the owner, along with his wife, Ruth Ehresman. Currently, it is owned by Greg and Carrie Ehresman, who took ownership of the establishment from Greg's parents, Jack and Ruth.[2]

There have been structural changes over the years as well. A second story was added in 1986–1987 along with a new roof, and seating has been increased to meet demand. However, The Ehresmans are quick to point out that the atmosphere remains the same, citing an iconic 35 year old Coca-Cola sign proudly displayed in the diner.[3]

The restaurant was featured on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives during an episode which aired on August 4, 2007.[4] More recently, the restaurant was featured in a May 2009 Businessweek article showcasing America's longest-running restaurants.[5]

Popular culture[edit]

In the song "All Night Diner" by Modest Mouse, Triple XXX Root Beer restaurants are briefly mentioned:

"I was at an all night diner
The sign said Triple X
But they were talking about root beer"

External links[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Trademark Electronic Search System (TESS)". Retrieved December 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Triple XXX home page: history". Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Triple XXX home page: tradition". Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Triple XXX home page: gallery". Retrieved January 20, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Businessweek: America's Longest Running Restaurants". Retrieved January 20, 2011.