King George supports 'cultural icon' of Northern Neck Ginger Ale
STORY BY CATHY DYSON WITH THE FREE-LANCE STAR
KING GEORGE, VA -- Almost 2½ years after Coca–Cola stopped producing Northern Neck Ginger Ale, demand for the product hasn’t fizzled out at all.
Instead, King George County resident Stephanie Johnson continues efforts to bring back the popular soft drink by circulating petitions and drumming up support on Facebook at Save Northern Neck Ginger Ale. She’s also turning to county governments for support.
On Tuesday, the King George Board of Supervisors endorsed her efforts by passing a resolution noting that the county is “committed to preserving history and the effort to restore this cultural icon.” Johnson hopes it will be the first of many such declarations throughout the area.
“It would be nice to show how Northern Neck Ginger Ale is a cultural icon, not only in the Northern Neck region,” she said in an email.
Johnson, 37, wasn’t able to attend Tuesday’s meeting because of illness. However, she and fellow King George resident Savannah Carabin recently met with Annie Cupka, at-large member on the King George board.
Cupka told fellow board members she initially was skeptical there was anything the board could do. Then, she thought a resolution could serve as a model for other localities to do the same. With their support, perhaps Johnson’s group could attract investors and convince Coca–Cola to give up the rights, and recipe, to once again produce the beverage.
“We realize they’ve been pretty firm (about not reinstating ginger ale) but perhaps there’s an opportunity here to get another group to come forward and acquire it,” Cupka said.
Chairman Jeff Stonehill introduced the resolution’s subject as “something near and dear to my heart.” All five members supported its passage.
Johnson’s Facebook page has thousands of followers, and she and others have gathered more than 2,000 signatures of support to bring back the popular soft drink. She said in an email Wednesday that she and her team did a survey about how to proceed and found “a lot of interest in investment opportunity.”
Her team has an idea of what it might cost to buy the rights, but Johnson said she hopes Coca–Cola will donate them to a nonprofit in Virginia.
“I believe we want to go a different route in getting the drink back,” she said. “Sometimes you have to think outside the box.”
Or the soda carton.
Northern Neck Ginger Ale was first produced in 1926 by the Carver family in Montross. It’s become a perennial favorite since then, both of Northern Neck natives and visitors.
The image of the can, with bubbles rising from the bottom against a green background with “Northern Neck” in fat, red italics, has been depicted in works of art and is regarded as a tourism draw and unifying symbol of the Northern Neck, according to the resolution.
Coca–Cola bought the company in 2001, but stopped producing ginger ale in July 2020 because of a shortage of aluminum. It also discontinued other flavors that weren’t performing well.
“I don’t think Coca–Cola understands how important this drink is for so many of us,” said Johnson in 2020. “Every time I have one, I feel calm. Its taste is phenomenal, and it’s fizzy to the point where nothing else compares.”