In 1935, the soft drink business was up-and-coming, and Arizona entrepreneur, Fred Nackard, acquired both a Nesbitt’s and Dr. Pepper franchise. Two years after acquiring these franchises, V.O. Robertson of the Pepsi-Cola Co., was touring the Western United States looking for franchise investors and approached Fred. Fred declined this first offer! He and his new business partner and general manager, his brother Phillip, felt that the timing wasn’t quite right.
World War II started and both Fred and Phillip were drafted. During the three years while the men were away, Monica and Phillip’s wife, Bessie kept the business running as best as they could. When he notified the Dr. Pepper Company that his wife, Monica, and his sister-in-law, Bessie, would be taking over operations, the Dr. Pepper Company refused, insisting instead that they would send a man to run the business. Fred did not agree to this and in 1943, he parted ways with Dr. Pepper when he signed the Pepsi franchise from boot camp in Fort Lewis, Washington. After spending two years as a drill sergeant while still stationed at Fort Lewis, Fred was honorably discharged from the army in 1945. He came home to Flagstaff and immediately began working to grow his fledgling company. He added bottling lines for soft drinks and signed an agreement with The Schlitz Brewing Company -- bringing Fred Nackard into the beer business.
By 1950, Fred had signed with Gallo wine and was distributing wine as well. It was during this time that the Pepsi franchise opportunity surfaced again. This time an agreement was signed and on December 8, 1943 the Nackard Bottling Company d.b.a. Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Flagstaff was born! The Nackards set up shop in downtown Flagstaff, right across from where the original liquor company was located. Looking to the future, Fred purchased seven acres of an old bean farm on the northeast side of Flagstaff.
Over the years, that land was used for additional storage space until the mid-70’s when the current Wis-Pak production facility, warehouse, and offices were built. “The building of our companies has been a slow process, done little-by-little,” continues Patrick. “Being in the outlying areas has made us unique. We’ve always considered there to be two Arizonas – the Phoenix and Tucson metro markets and Northern Arizona with completely different marketing efforts needed. It’s a unique environment here covering more miles than there are people. So, we concentrate on giving our customers full-service treatment.
For Patrick Nackard, Fred and Monica’s only child, the family businesses were, at first, nothing more than a playground. He fondly recalls days spent playing in the warehouse jumping form pallet to pallet. That changed though as he grew older. “One of my favorite stories is one my dad used to tell about when I was around ten years old and decided I needed some money. I volunteered to sweep the floor in the warehouse and my dad offered me two bits,” he said.” When I finished, he handed me a quarter, but I thought he meant two bucks.” It’s hard not to image a ten-year-old’s disappointment at learning the difference between two bits and two dollars.
From that time on, Patrick worked at numerous jobs within the company. At first, he only worked during the Summer months, but as he reached high school, he sometimes found himself spending school days working on the bottling line when his father was shorthanded. “Of course, my mother always put up the argument that I should go to school, but my dad said I’d go to school the next day, today I was working at the Pepsi plant,” said Patrick.
That early exposure to the family business set the course for Patrick’ s adult life. After two years of college, he returned to work with his father. He even met his wife, Julie, while delivering a Pepsi machine to Northern Arizona University. Following the death of his father in 1984, Patrick became president of the Nackard family of businesses.
One of the biggest highlights in our company’s long history has to be receiving the prestigious Donald M. Kendall “Bottler of the Year” award in 2002. This annual award is Pepsi’s way of recognizing just one bottler who is “Best of the Best” from all the other bottlers throughout the United States.
So, here we are over 75 years after Fred and Monica Nackard first started selling Pepsi-Cola in this part of the state. As Patrick reflects upon the evolution of the soft drink business, he expresses pride in his family’s heritage and business legacy. “We could not have made it this far without our loyal customers, vendors, and hard-working employees,” he says. He also attributes their success to one simple, old fashioned philosophy born 75 years ago – service. “Our whole business is based upon service – we pride ourselves on taking care of our customers,” he says. “Sure, the soft drink business has changed quite a bit since my father started the company but continuing to sell a worldwide brand like Pepsi has not. We’re proud to continue a long tradition of selling quality products, coupled with providing the best-possible customer service, and giving back to those communities where we do business.” His vision for the future is the same as his fathers was: “I want to continue building and strengthening the company for the next generation – our children, Palmer and Monica, and their families.