Written by Jason Gilmer | Photos by Evan Anderson
The folks behind Waynesville Soda Jerks have seen steady growth for their business, yet despite increased production and a significant recent expansion, they insist they are still learning as they go.
Go ahead. Call them jerks. Megan Brown and Chris Allen are used to the moniker. Heck, they enjoy it.
They aren’t jerks in the goofy Steve Martin-way. Or like the driver who cuts you off on the highway. No, they are the nicest of jerks and they show their affection through flavored beverages.
The proprietors of Waynesville Soda Jerks have served up a bounty of flavors that use local fruits and vegetables since a small-scale debut on a Saturday morning in 2013 at Haywood County’s Historic Farmer Market.
“I have a T-shirt, that I made for myself, that just says ‘jerk’ on it,” Brown says. “I get a lot of compliments on it, and we might start making them to sell. A lot of people don’t know what a soda jerk is. Kids think we’re being funny, and older people are like, ‘I used to be a soda jerk!’”
The two 32-year-olds, who both graduated from Pisgah High School in Canton, are far from the dictionary version of jerks. They’re friendly and have much more in common with the soda jerks of yesteryear—minus the traditional white paper cap, bowtie, and apron—than those who prefer snark over “please” or “thank you.” Old-school soda jerks were once responsible for making a customer’s favorite concoction at the local drug store counter or soda fountain, and the “jerk” part of the name was for how the handle was pulled to dispense soda.
“We decided on the moniker Soda Jerks in the early stages,” recalls Allen. “We wanted to, at least from a product standpoint, pay homage back to a bygone era. We are simply carrying on this tradition and brought the name with us. Just for a fun play on words, and to add some level of intrigue, we do usually drop the ‘soda’ in conversation, or replace it with ‘proprietary’ in our official titles.”
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