Special Soda Stores is a new series where we aim to highlight some of the best places to buy craft/vintage/hard to come by/quirky sodas/pop/fizzy drinks. First up is Mass Street Soda based in Lawrence, KS, USA, the brain child of Luke Thompson (on the left), Matt Baysinger (on the right). Luke and Matt were kind enough to take time out of their busy day to answer a few questions about running a soda store and giving some tips on their favourite drinks.
When did you start Mass Street Soda?
We actually started planning the store in 2009. It took 5 years of research for us to feel comfortable opening up a brick & mortar shop. The logistics in getting 1,100 different varieties of soda into one shop took a lot of planning work as well as physical work to get it all unloaded and onto the shelves.
What made you want to run a soda store?
Matt & I met while at the University of Kansas and both found out we had grown up with a love of craft soda. I grew up in a small town in Kansas that had its own soda company (Lost Trail Soda) so I was drinking it all the time. Matt grew up in Colorado and moved to Kansas and he would always try regional sodas wherever his family went on vacation. After university, we were both working full-time jobs while also building up small businesses on the side. Around October 2013 we decided that we both were ready to take the plunge and go forward with our soda shop plans.
What has been the great challenge in running MSS?
One of our greatest challenges is keeping soda in stock. We carry over 1,100 varieties of soda and it is hard to keep a large backstock of most varieties. Sometimes in can take months for us to get certain flavors back in stock when our customers want it right away. That will get easier with time and experience as we haven’t even been open a full year yet.
What is your Favourite drink?
It depends on the day. Some sodas are better when it is hot outside and some are better when it is cold. I tend to have favorite brands that I will always go back to whenever I need a delicious soda. Sprecher from Wisconsin always creates amazing sodas. Their Orange Dream is usually my go to soda if I need to recommend one to a customer.
Most unusual drink you have tried?
We have some that are unusual, but the taste isn’t the greatest. Their more of a novelty and not for a normal soda drinker. There are a few unusual sodas that people will come back and buy in large quantities. Dr. Brown’s out of New York makes a celery soda that is surprisingly refreshing. Cicero Beverages out of Chicago makes a Candied Bacon Cream Soda that has a cream soda taste up front and then a bacon meaty flavor at the end that is interesting in a good way. Empire Bottling Works out of Rhode Island makes a spruce beer that people either love or hate. Most of the people who love it are also a fan of gin because they have a similar taste.
Best thing about running a soda store?
We run a store where we get to taste soda all the time. It doesnt’ get any better than that. We also get to reunite people with brands that they either thought were extinct or brands that they grew up with and haven’t been able to find a retailer that sells them since they moved away from their home.
It takes a lot of work to run a store. Glass bottled soda weighs a lot and we are constantly getting in pallets of soda from around the country so it’s a lot of lifting and moving soda around. The good news is that we have some great employees to help us out.
Drink you most want to try?
There are always new soda brands popping up and a few go out of business each year. There is a soda company in California that is making wine flavored soda that I haven’t been able to try yet. We don’t get to try a lot of the international sodas because they are too hard and too expensive to import.
This month our best seller was Bundaberg Ginger Beer. It has such a great ginger flavor and makes a delicious Moscow Mule.
Soda, pop or fizzy drink?
Soda is what I like to call quality or glass bottled carbonated drinks. I consider pop to be your mass produced beverages like Coke, Pepsi, etc. Fizzy drink is not used at all in the US and I hadn’t heard of its use until I came upon your website.
Flavour of drink you would most like to see made?
We’re actually planning on making some small batch sodas this year so we’re going to try and do some unique flavors. We had a kid come in and request a Mac & Cheese soda.
Plans for future expansion?
We’re looking into it. We just opened in April 2014 so we’re looking to see what a full year of data looks like before we make any decisions.
Find Mass Street Soda