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History of Dallas Food

History of Dallas Food: The Woosie

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History of Dallas Food: The Woosie

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Last year, Amy Severson, co-owner of Sevy’s, blogger, and all-around smart person, and I had what we thought was a great idea. We decided to write a book on the history of Dallas food. We began collecting bits and pieces of information and interviewed grandchildren of long-lost Dallas restaurants and food businesses. What we have found is unique and amazing and over the year we have published several almost-lost stories.(Links to past posts at the bottom of this page.) Today we file the short version on the formation of Glazer’s Distributors and the popular soft drinks they created and sold all over Dallas. Like the Woosie.

Mention the name Glazer around anyone in the restaurant or hospitality business in Dallas (or Texas) and many of them would immediatly associate the name with a stiff drink.  Over the last 100 years, the Glazer family has created one of the largest wholesale beverage distributors in the country. Glazer Distributors now operates in twelve U.S. states and generates more than $3 billion in annual revenue.

The family business didn’t start by delivering the hard stuff.Brothers Louis and Jo Glazer opened a soft drink company in St. Louis in 1898, ten years after moving to the United States from Russia. They moved their company to the DFW area at the turn of the century. Jo began the Uncle Jo Bottling Company in Fort Worth, initially selling their own recipes of drinks called Uncle Jo’s and Aunt Ida’s. The Uncle Jo was replaced by Grapette and the Uncle Jo Bottling Company began distributing other brands such as Red Rock Cola, and Chero Cola. Louis started the Jumbo Bottling Company in Dallas, which eventually became The Real Juice Company in 1909. Louis’ wife Bessie and their children all worked at the plant or sold bottled drinks from the back of a horse-drawn wagon. One of their popular flavors was a root beer soda called Woosie, named after their grandson, Robert Samuel Glazer, whose nickname was Woosie.

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Photo of Bennett Glazer courtesy of The Blend Blog.

The family business boomed when it obtained one of Texas’ first alcohol distribution licenses after the repeal of prohibition in 1934. Glazer’s Distributing delivered alcohol to the newly licensed clubs and liquor stores cropping up in Dallas. Louis’ oldest son Max, with brother Nolan, began expanding Glazer’s statewide. The liquor trade provided growth and profits that the soft drink business could not, and eventually most of the family shifted employment to the spirits business.

However, one cousin continued to run the family-owned soft drink bottling company. Competitive pricing by Coca Cola and Dr. Pepper kept their margins low, but the Real Juice Company continued to bottle Woosie Root Beer for the local market. During the 1940’s they expanded their product line and flavors included root beer, grape, strawberry, orange, lemonade, and cream soda. A six pack of Woosies sold for 19 cents and could be purchased at area 7-11’s, A & P, and Tom Thumb stores. During the 1950’s, the Woosie was arguably Dallas’ favorite soft drink.

Bennett Glazer, son of Nolan, remembers the plant location on Leonard Street that is now occupied by the Federal Reserve Building in Uptown. “I was 10 or 11 years old and our neighborhood [Preston Hollow] was full of construction workers,” Glazer said. “Kids would have cold drink stands. My mom would drive me down to the factory in the morning and I’d get three or four cases for free and sell them for half as much because they cost me nothing. I had the most successful stand.” Entrepreneurship has lasting lessons. Bennett is now Company Chairman of Glazer’s, Inc.

Patience also paid off. Eventually a powerful  soft drink from the East Coast decided to expand to the Dallas market and was looking for  a local bottling company. Real Juice Company became the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Dallas in 1948. (It is still owned by the Glazer family.) Over in Fort Worth ,the Pepsi distributor went bankrupt and was acquired by the Fort Worth branch of the family.

The Woosie continued to be produced until the 1960’s. “Frito-Lay had merged with Pepsi, and it was important to them to own the Dallas bottling operation since this was their headquarters,” Bennett said. “After two years of negotiation [in 1966] they finally bought the bottling company and the rights to the Woosie.”

Pepsi had their own line of flavored drinks they wanted to concentrate on selling, and by 1970, the Woosie was no longer advertised on local grocery shelves. But its reputation lives on. Many of us who grew up in Dallas remember the drink and each seems to have a strong opinion on which of the flavors was the best.

Do you remember the Woosie? We’d love to hear your stories.

History of Dallas Food links:

Remembering  La Tunisia

The Amazing Miss Ida Chitwood

The Golden Pheasant

Prohibition in Dallas, Part 1

The Legend of Eltee O. Dave and Dave’s Barbecue