Legal News Reporter
Published: March 27, 2018
They’re not exactly the soft drinks that older residents who grew up in the Akron area might remember, but the popular NORKA brand is making a comeback in stores around the country.
This after Akron native Michael Considine decided to revive the handcrafted sparkling beverage line in 2014.
“NORKA, which is Akron spelled backwards, was a favorite among Akronites and those living in the surrounding counties for 40 years,” said Considine, founder and president of NORKA Food and Beverage.
Founded by Jacob Paquin in 1924, The NORKA Beverage Company was located at 608 Spicer St.
During its heyday in the late 1930s, NORKA filled 1,000 wooden cases a day with 24,000 bottles, employed more than 50 workers and had a fleet of 15 trucks.
“The product line came into play after Prohibition when breweries were switching to producing soft drinks,” he said. “Paquin saw this as an opportunity to open his factory.
“The soft drinks fell out of favor when Coke and Pepsi became popular, but many people still remember enjoying them when they were younger.”
Considine wasn’t even born when NORKA shut down in 1962. In fact he said he had never heard of the brand until he randomly came across it as he was having lunch with his father at The Game Grill + Bar in Canal Park while the Akron RubberDucks were playing.
“There was a mural directly behind us and there was a picture of a vintage bottle from the 1920s,” he said. “I asked my father what type of beverage it was and he said it was a soda pop named after Akron.
“I thought it was very cool that the city had its own soda pop and I decided to do some research on it.”
“I remember that the story piqued Michael’s interest almost immediately,” said Considine’s father Bill. “Michael was always an industrious young man and he definitely possesses an entrepreneurial spirit.
“He was able to get a lot of information about NORKA and while he was researching it we found out that my mother went to school with the founder’s daughter, Olive. In fact my mom and Olive used to walk down to the factory after school and get a bottle of soda on the way home.”
At the time that he learned about NORKA, Considine was working as vice president of operations at Solvi Acquisition in Twinsburg, which manages energy drink companies.
“I was handling production and planning and I had a lot of contacts as a result,” said Considine, who received his bachelor’s degree in marketing from John Carroll University and also has a master’s degree in management from The University of Akron.
However, there were still hurdles to be overcome. He said the NORKA factory burned down in the 1970s, making it hard to locate anything that listed the original ingredients.
“I eventually found old cardboard carriers in an antique store,” he said. “I wanted to stay true to the original brand, but freshen it up for today’s market.
“I used the old logo but I made a few tweaks to it.”
He was able to find a space on Grant Street, but the majority of the production is done in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
The original NORKA product line included classic flavors like orange, cherry-strawberry, ginger ale, root beer, cream soda, grape, lemon-lime and a mixer called “QK.” It came in 7-, 12- and 32-ounce custom glass bottles.
“We revived this iconic local brand as a craft soda and we are sticking to the original flavors,” said Considine. “We make them with pure cane sugar and all natural ingredients.
“Right now we have five flavors—orange, ginger ale, cherry-strawberry, root beer and lemon-lime. Our lemon-lime has no sugar or calories.
“They are all caffeine-free and gluten-free. We will be adding more flavors as time goes on and we will soon start offering popsicles.”
The most popular flavor is the signature cherry-strawberry, followed by root beer, said Considine.
The beverages can be purchased at Target, Acme, Heinen’s, Giant Eagle market districts, the Mustard Seed and West Point Market as well as at Cracker Barrel Old Country stores around the United States.
Considine was recently accepted into eBay’s Retail Revival pilot program, which is providing training to more than 100 entrepreneurs in Akron and Warren on how to market their products and services using the e-commerce platform.
“We have an eBay store and we are receiving a lot of assistance from eBay in growing the business,” said Considine. “We have had a very good response so far. We now have global shipping so we are excited to see how our market grows.”
Considine and his cousin Colleen also team up to offer soda tastings at local events and grocery stores.
“We do some events at the Soap Box Derby, art museum and Hale Farm & Village,” said Colleen.
They have also done tastings at Totally Cooked, Jilly’s Music Room and The Merchant Tavern.
“We are a very supportive family and I will do whatever I can to help Michael out,” said Colleen.
“I think it is so cool to see this business unfold right in front of my eyes and to witness all that Michael has accomplished.”
“My wife and I are very proud of our son,” said Bill. “He wanted to revive a piece of Akron’s history and he has done just that.
“He did it the right way, through hard work and research, making sure all the patents had expired and using his knowledge about the bottling business to make it a success.
“He is generous to the community and has donated his products at a number of events.
“My wife keeps our refrigerator fully stocked with NORKA,” said Bill. “My favorite flavors are ginger ale and root beer.”
While Considine does not have any employees, he does receive assistance from several interns who are attending or have graduated from The University of Akron.
In the future, he hopes to hire some workers and he also wants to open an old-fashioned soda shop in downtown Akron.
“We would serve things like root beer floats and other nostalgic items,” Considine said. “I am looking at various locations and weighing my options.”