A full tilt soda scene is happening at a Mission storefront, where shoppers can find over 900 sodas and beverages in every shade and from many eras. There’s an appealing array of old fashioned candies with a friendly crew at The Fizzary Soda Menagerie, on a once sleepy stretch of Mission Street between 25th and 26th. The Fizzary serves up a vibrant and social shopping scene complete with free taffy with purchase and a mysterious looking soda chiller that brings soda to the perfect cold temperature in five minutes. Many guests on a recent visit would buy a bottle or two of a soda like Green River lime soda that seemed to illustrate a return to a sweet childhood memory. I was tempted to buy a six pack of Jolt cola as a reminder of my own memorable 1986 slumber birthday party that included scary movies, tee-peeing and talking into the wee morning hours. The Fizzary opened last year and is operated by Aaron Dolson and Taylor Peck, who started Taylor’s Tonics in Santa Cruz before moving their operation to the City.
The duo is a NorCal success story, and have the words “San Francisco/Santa Cruz” emblazoned on each Taylor’s Tonics bottle. They use Square for payments at The Fizzary and received a visit from Square Grand Poobah Jack Dorsey recently, who brought a camera crew along. Back in 2009, Peck embarked on a quest to make organic fizzy treats. With a little seed money provided by San Francisco based David Rio Tea Company, Peck and Dolson joined forces and Taylor’s Tonics Botanical Soda Kitchen was created. The product line is sold for $2 a bottle at the Fizzary (like all the other products there) and has elixirs that includes Chai Cola, Mate’ Mojito, and a holiday collection. Taylor’s Tonics did steady business at last month’s Fancy Food Show, and can be found in 40 states and 600 retail locations.
Peck said the Fizzary exists “to bring as many independent, domestic brands as possible under one roof for retail display.” He has helped folks who are new to the soda and retail world in a “pay it forward” style that fits his outgoing personality. Bay Area Bites caught up with these young soda kings to find out about their new business, what soda's they recommend and their thoughts on anti-soda legislation. Their comments have been edited for content and clarity.
Bay Area Bites: Why do the Fizzary in San Francisco? Or even in the Mission District?
Peck: We started in Santa Cruz as a tea company and wanted a little more taste of the big city. So we moved the whole operation up here. David Rio helped us finance our Chai Cola and we ran the soda line out of a suite near Rainbow Grocery. Then we were at 7th and Brannan but that burned down. So we set up operations in Bayshore temporarily.
We looked for property in SOMA and Mission exclusively. This location couldn’t be more perfect. We appreciate Valencia and the deep Mission and knew we had a stand-alone ‘go-to’ destination. Our plan was to turn into a brewing area for our herbal concentrates and have the public see the process and the treats we have in here. We needed foot traffic, visibility and a minimally industrial showroom workshop. It was literally a long run. There has been a lot of turnover on this something of a sleepy block. We’ve gotten a very warm reception with our neighbors and we are very outgoing and colorful. This space gives us a little more opportunity to shine with our DIY vibe rather than being somewhere in Fisherman’s Wharf, Valencia Street or Union Square.
Bay Area Bites: You had plans to use this as an event space. Is that still the case?
Peck: Yes and no. We have a bottling workshop and are able to do events for 100 people or so that are much more specialized and custom. The event needs to be able to integrate well into our production space in back. There is definitely room for both but it is not just an open conference space. If you want to do a performance by a giant steel kettle, that’ll work here. Having uplit LED lights on our apparatus is actually pretty cool, and we’ve done that since moving here. There can be a bar set up back there and folks can start with a soda up front with us.