Lawrence Lester Rice came to Johnson City in 1941 to start up Rice's Bottling Company at 407 South Roan Street.(2) Rice was from Roanoke, VA and had been operating his Big Boy Bottling Company there during the 1930's. The Roanoke operation bottled Big Boy Beverages, a product of the Taylor Long Company of Charlotte, NC, and Pop Kola, of Chattanooga. We know Pop Kola wasn't bottled in Johnson City because the Holston Bottling Company owned the local franchise at the time. We do know that around the same time as he opened the Johnson City branch he opened another Rice’s Bottling Company branch in Jacksonville, Florida.

Rice's Bottling Company of Johnson City bottled Grapette products exclusively from all accounts which included Botl-o a flavor line also produced by the Grapette Company of Camden Arkansas. The Jacksonville and Roanoke plants also bottled Lemonette, which along with Orangette were the three leader sodas from the Grapette Company, but we have yet to find one of these bottles from Johnson City. In 1944 the company has moved to 121-123 East Market Street which was once a garage.(1) Rice's Bottling Company in Jacksonville closed down in August 1942 by the War Production Board, so it may be possible that the rest of his plants closed for a short time as well which might be one reason for this move if his original building was no longer available after he was allowed to restart operations. In the city directories for 1947-48 Thomas M. Norris is listed as manager of the company, and also confirms that Lawrence L. Rice lives in Roanoke.(1)

On December 30, 1949 Frank A. Dial, owner of the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company, sells the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company, along with the land the plant sat on, to Lawrence L. Rice.(3) The 1950 City Directories confirm this by listing Rice as owner for both the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company and Rice's Bottling Company.(1) Most likely he decided to combine both into one bottling company which went by the name Rice Bottling Company operating the larger 840 West Market Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company plant while closing the original East Market Street location as it is no longer listed in the 1953 city directory.

This is the first location of the company on Roan Street

This was the East Market Street location

6oz Grapette bottle dated 1945

Grapette ad from May 12, 1941

6oz Grapette bottle dated 1947

Grapette ad from May 14, 1941

From the collection of Geff Moore, photo by Joseph Lee
6oz Grapette bottle dated 1948

Grapette ad from June 29, 1941

10oz Botl-o bottle dated 1950

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(1) Baldwin's Johnson City, Tenn. City Directory 1937 through 1986

(2) "Directory of Tennessee Industries" compiled by Walter C. Long 1949

(3) Washington County Circuit Court Records