YESTERDAY AND TODAY: Pop culture was very present in Barrie before it died out

After becoming a licensed Canada Dry bottler in 1949, Albert Empke opened his new business at Innisfil and Brock streets.

This ongoing series from Barrie Historical Archives Curator Deb Exel shows old photos from the collection and one from today, along with the story behind them.

Canada Dry Barrie – Innisfil Street

Barrie has had several soda businesses over the years.

Joshua Clarkson, owner of the Clarkson House hotel, ran a soda factory on John Street (now Maple Avenue) from 1881 to 1893. Charles Kilkenny and Donald Sutherland opened the Kilkenny Soda Water Manufactory in 1889, which closed in 1894 .

James Walsh, who opened his factory in 1893 on triangular land in Sophia and Clapperton streets, was also in the sparkling water business. He was then joined in the business by his brother, George, who took the business to new levels, forming a new business with Chris Horsfield.

Horsfield had come to Barrie from Lancastershire, England, in 1883. In addition to his collaboration with Walsh for sparkling water, Horsfield spent 19 years in the ice trade and served on city council in 1906.

Their new company, Imperial Soda Water Works, produced high quality sparkling water, mineral water, ginger beer, lemon soda, and ginger ale. Their modern equipment, superior products and reputation for cleanliness put Imperial Soda Water Works ahead of the competition, possibly helping to shut down other local sparkling water manufacturers.

Fast forward to 1949. Recognizing soft drinks as a growing market, Albert Empke, a local businessman, was appointed licensed bottler of Canada Dry and founded the Canada Dry (Barrie) company. The new bottling business was located at the northwest corner of Innisfil and Brock streets.

Empke was born in 1900 in Elmwood, Ontario. In the early 1930s, he moved to Detroit and opened a hardware store. While living and working in Detroit, he met his wife Winnie, from Glencoe, Ontario. Together they moved to Barrie in 1932 and Empke opened a hardware store at 78 Dunlop Street East called Empke’s Hardware.

Mr. and Mrs. Empke were busy and active members of the community. Ms. Empke was very involved in the Auxiliary events of the Red Cross Hospital, Barrie Golf and Country Club, and was a judge of the Grad Queen competition at Barrie District Collegiate Institute in 1954. Mr. Empke was founding member of the Rotary Club of Barrie, alumnus of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, member of Barrie City Council in 1951 and served on the Barrie School Board in the 1950s.

But Albert Empke wasn’t in the ginger ale business for long. a limited liability company, managed by AL Robinson, purchased the company in 1950.

About Catherine Sturm

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