Coca-Cola Marks 100th Year

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In 1902 a contract was signed that brought Meridian a relatively unknown product named Coca-Cola.

Hardy Poindexter Graham, president of the company, took us back to that year.

"Meridian Coca-Cola originally was part of a Louisiana Company, the Louisiana Coca-Cola Bottling Company and that franchise was issued in 1902," said Graham. "It went bankrupt and in 1904 my grandfather, Mr. Poindexter, bought the Meridian part of the Louisiana Company in 1904."

It was not, by today's standards, a major investment.

"I think the original if I remember the numbers correctly, the original franchise, the Louisiana Company was $2,500," said Graham. "And when my grandfather bought the Meridian part of it, it was $4,000 which he borrowed from his mother."

From that small acorn a very large tree grew.

"I'm not sure what the numbers were but under the contract he was supposed to sell 10,000 cases a year to maintain the contract," said Graham, "and now we do between two-and-one-fourth and two-and-one-half million cases a year."

Graham represents the third generation of his family. His son, Hardy Poindexter Graham, Jr. is the company's operations manager. The business has 120 employees. The Meridian plant is one of the few home-owned Coke firms left.

"There are only 82 bottling plants in the United States in the Coke system," said Graham. "At one time there were over 1,500. There are only three of us here in the state of Mississippi that are independents. We've been here for, my family, 98 years and hopefully we'll be here at least another 98 years."

Coca-Cola is available in nearly 200 countries and worldwide sells more than one billion servings per day.