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Clem Bottling Works in Malvern (Hot Spring County) was a bottling company in operation from 1907 to 1972. It produced about a dozen original flavors of soft drinks.
Clem Bottling Works was started in March 1907 by J. M. Clem and his son, Dock. The Clem family produced and bottled soft drinks in a small building behind their home. In May 1914, the Clem Family built a bottling plant and warehouse at 937 South Main Street in Malvern. The building, currently vacant, still stands with the company’s name barely visible on the side.
The first bottles the company used were embossed with “J. M. Clem Bottling Works” and were sealed with a wire and an inner seal. In the early 1920s, the company converted to bottles sealed with metal caps. The bottles at this time were also covered with paper labels. Starting in the 1950s, the bottles were labeled with applied coloring (painted) labels.
J. M. Clem died on September 22, 1931. Dock Clem’s son, Harold, joined the business in 1933. After Dock Clem’s death on May 21, 1942, his widow, Jewell Clem, and son continued to operate the business until 1972, when the family sold the company to Dr Pepper, a purchase that included the rights to the soft drink formulas and the trademarks but not the bottling equipment. Harold Clem joined the Dr Pepper Company and worked there until he died on April 23, 2004.
Clem Bottling Works produced about a dozen soft drinks, including Clem’s Cola, R-Pep, Orange, Strawberry, Root Beer, Cream Soda, Peach, Lemon-Lime, Fruit Punch, Pep-Up, Rock and Rye, and Chocolate. Clem’s sodas were distributed throughout Arkansas, eastern Texas, northern Louisiana, and western Mississippi.
For years after Clem Bottling Works closed, the bottling machinery remained in the building, but it was purchased in the early 1990s by the Mountain Valley Spring Water company in Hot Springs (Garland County). Cases of glass bottles used by Clem Bottling Works were purchased in May 2011 by the Excel Bottling Company of Breese, Illinois, which also trademarked the name “R-Pep” and is producing the original beverage formula for the first time since Clem Bottling Works closed in 1972.
For additional information:Bryan, Wayne. “Phil Clem: Helping Young People Learn and Play Is His Life’s Work.” ArkansasOnline.com. February 5, 2012. http://m.arkansasonline.com/news/2012/feb/05/phil-clem-20120205/ (accessed March 11, 2013).
Excel Bottling Company. http://www.excelbottling.com/ (accessed March 11, 2013).
Darrell W. BrownSherwood, Arkansas
Last Updated 5/10/2013
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