George R. Brown's (G. R. B.) Bottling Works 1890-1891

George R. Brown first appears in the February 10 1887 issue of the Johnson City newspaper in a blurb which informs us that he has started a restaurant just a few steps from the depot.(1) In fact this restaurant is located at 340 West Main Street across the tracks of the East Tennessee Virginia & Georgia Rail Road from the passenger station depot of the same line.(1) The blurb goes on to mention that George and his wife had tried to introduce metropolitan methods to Johnson City, and served oysters in any style.(1)

Of course at this time Johnson City had several saloons, which usually only served male customers, so Mr. Brown came up with an excellent idea. He opened an ice cream parlor in the back of Chritzman's jewelry store to be used solely as a ladies parlor.(1) The entrance of the parlor was on Main Street with no gentlemen allowed unless accompanied by ladies. The gentlemen had their own parlor which could be entered on Railroad Street.(1) I'm guessing that was what they were calling Buffalo Street at the time.

By April 1889 he has also started carrying grocery goods including cigars, tobacco, snuff, and "the largest assortment and best fancy candies in town."(1) On September 18, 1890 a blurb is ran in The Comet stating that George R. Brown had ordered an outfit for a bottling works and hoped to be ready for business in sixty days.(1) The stated drinks to be produced at this bottling works in the beginning were to be soda pop, ginger ale, and Champaign cider.(1) This is stated with the caveat that the business would be enlarged as necessity demanded, and arrangements had been made to attach an ice factory in the early spring.

Shortly after this first announcement there is a blurb which appears in the October 2, 1890 issue of the Comet stating that Mr. Brown had purchased the Johnson City Steam Laundry, and that he was going to operate it at its present location until the new building he was constructing was finished on West Main Street.(1) In fact the location would be at what was then 102 West Main Street, but is today 204 West Main Street just down the block from where it intersects Boone Street. Under a list of new buildings being erected in Johnson City ran on October 16, 1890 the George R. Brown Steam Laundry and Bottling Works is listed as both being located on the West Market address strongly suggesting both would reside in the same building.(1)

As you may have surmised already Mr. Brown ordered Hutchinson stopper bottles which were simply embossed G. R. B. Johnson City Tenn. He called his steam laundry simply City Steam Laundry, and appears to have done a decent business; however, in the June 25, 1891 edition was a blurb posted by a M. F. Hickey announcing the sell at public auction one engine and boiler at the Johnson City Steam Laundry.(1) It appears that George R. Brown's steam laundry venture, and presumably his bottling operation, has gone into bankruptcy. The Johnson City Steam Laundry would go on to continuing to serve Johnson City under a string of new owners.

George R. Brown would have still had his restaurant to fall back on, and by 1895 has opened the European Hotel on Buffalo Street opposite the railroad tank, and of course this new business also included a restaurant serving fresh salt water fish, and fresh oysters.(1) This location was actually on the corner of Buffalo Street and Jobe Street, and would later be known as Lee’s Hotel by 1908. George R. Brown continued in business in Johnson City for many years with ads for his restaurant running as late as 1903. He even got into the paving business including getting the contract to do the curbs along Johnson City's macadam paved streets in 1911. There you have the story of a very short lived bottling company; however, we now know who those G. R. B. hutches belonged to.

From the collection of Don Cox, photo by Don Cox
G. R. B. Johnson City Tenn hutch

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(1) The Comet newspaper Johnson City, Tennessee

(2) Washington County Tennessee Court Records