Archive for March, 2011

Original New York Seltzers

I was feeling nostalgic recently for the best grocery store to ever grace McMinnville’s Hwy 99 during the 1980s. That would be Zupan’s Market, which only limped along for a couple of years before closing its doors for good. I don’t know why Zupan’s picked McMinnville as a place to locate one of their specialty grocery stores. The demographics for this chain definitely skews high in the education and income brackets. The fact that McMinnville is home to Linfield College and (formerly) a division of HP must have been a factor. Anyway, my mom use to buy this carbonated beverage called the Original New York Seltzer from Zupan’s. These drinks came in small glass bottles with a Styrofoam label. There were a number of flavors, including raspberry and black cherry which were two of my favorites. I just Googled the beverage last night and found out that the company closed in the early ’90s. Of particular interest was the president of ONYS, a one Randy Miller, who was a professional stunt man, animal trainer, and funny car driver. There is a great segment from Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous on YouTube that profiles Randy Miller during the brief boom years of the ONYS. I mean, where do you start when talking about this guy? The hair? The fact he kept jungle cats in his office? The way he fake punches his girlfriend while she tries to exercise? In 1993, the ONYS company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, marking the end of the road for this delicious drink. In a Los Angeles Business Journal article, the reasons cited for the company’s decline included distribution problems, increased competition, and a weak economy. I don’t know how much longer the company managed to operate, but I suspect it wasn’t too long after ‘93 when production finally stopped. Curiously, as late as 2007, people claimed to have purchased ONYS at the grocery chain Big Lots! (just so you know, not my exclamation mark). I guess the only ONYS available through Big Lots! were of the sugar-free variety, so I’m not sure what to make of this. Was this surplus stock from the early ’90s perhaps? If yes, is it safe for a major retailer to sell beverages over a decade old? Puzzling questions indeed.

So what happened to Randy Miller? He’s still around and has his own website. It seems he made a second career out of his passion for big cats. According to his website, he has lent his animal expertise to a number of film and television projects. Don’t know if he still dabbles in stunts or funny car racing, but I suspect he’s doing just fine running this animal business. So what are the odds ONYS will be reborn? There are various petitions floating around the Internet demanding the product be brought back to market, but those never go anywhere. Of course there are also Facebook pages dedicated to ONYS, but I don’t think those will really spur any business interest. Probably the only way a rebirth could occur is if someone started small scale production and sold it online. There is really no way a brand like ONYS can complete against big corporations like Coca Cola and Pepsi — it’s best to stick to the margins of the beverage market I imagine.

2 comments March 29th, 2011


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