On the hunt for Cherikee Red
Last Modified: March 07. 2013 8:40AM
A two-hour trip from Fort Indiantown Gap to Scranton. $90 for two cases of 20-ounce bottles. A region on the hunt, madness in their eyes at the memory of a sweet cherry taste – it was the fssszzz heard round Northeast Pennsylvania when bottles of Cherikee Red were cracked open once again by area residents.
The little slice of cherry-flavored carbonated heaven was a staple in supermarket, convenient store, and pizza joint shelves in the area years ago, produced by the Crystal Club soda company in Scranton. The plant shut down within the last decade, and Cherikee went with it – until now.
Mike Brunetti’s pizza shop and deli on Sanderson Avenue in Scranton seems to be where the shipments first began to come into, setting off the frenzy.
“It came in the Friday before Super Bowl, and every day that week following I sold at least six cases,” Brunetti said. “That Friday, at the end of the week, I sold 25.”
The Canada Dry/Royal Crown Co. distributor in Olyphant is the company placing the orders for local stores, receiving the product from the American Bottling Co. plant in Columbus, Ohio.
The local distribution points have spread and spread, with people Facebooking, Tweeting, and Instragramming sightings from West Pittston to Wilkes-Barre to Dupont. Hash tags like “nectarofthegods” and “firstofmany” have accompanied such pictures.
The Facebook page “Bring Back Cherikee Red” has been posting places where shipments have come in, but these social media blips seem to be just that: brief glimpses of the syrupy sweetness, for the minute a shipment comes into a store, the bottles go right back out again.
Stores are working to order more to meet demand, but as of now, it’s a waiting game.
“We’re working on getting another shipment in right now,” Jimmy Romanelli of customer service at Gerrity’s Shur Save in Wyoming said. “We got seven shipments in and each went within a day.”
Brunetti has the craziest tales to tell – a man drove from Wallenpaupack and sat in his parking lot awaiting purchase, another from Fort Indiantown Gap requested bottles be held for him, and a half-dozen bottles are being shipped to Florida for a former NEPA resident. He also encountered someone who wanted to buy two whole cases, which he said he would sell for face value at $45 a piece – the customer didn’t blink an eye and walked out with all the soda he wanted.
It’s no secret that there’s a great demand for the soft drink, but the question remains: What’s the big deal about it? Some balk at the cojones one has to even make such an inquiry.
“How do you not love it? Are you not from this area? You can’t be if you either have no idea what it is or aren’t killing yourself to get a bottle since it’s back,” insisted Josh Sweeney of Hanover Township.
“It’s addicting,” added Stephanie Mann of Scranton. “You could try to find another drink to replace it, but there’s no way. Nothing tastes like Cherikee Red.”
“It’s our history in a bottle,” said Eric Skurka of Wilkes-Barre. “You drink it and it brings you back to all the great experiences and feelings you had when you were a kid and things were just awesome.”
Brunetti, who is being called “Mr. Cherikee Red” by his wife, agrees with Skurka that the selling point for the soda is simple.
“It’s the nostalgia.”
Though Cherikee Red isn’t holding up solidly on shelves anywhere, there are plenty of places that have received shipments and will be getting more in the future. Here are some such spots – be sure to keep your eyes peeled!
• Sayona One Stop, Keyser Avenue, Old Forge
• Convenient Food Mart, Main Street, Avoca
• Valley Deli, Main Street, Avoca
• Abe’s Hot Dogs, Barney Street, Wilkes-Barre
• Sunoco, Route 315, Dupont
• Sunoco, S. Main Street, Pittston
• Convenient Food Mart, Columbus Ave. Pittston
• PenMart, Wyoming Avenue, West Pittston
• Coolbaugh’s Gulf, Route 92, Exeter
• US Gas, Rt. 92, West Pittston
• Gerrity’s: Wyoming Avenue, Wyoming; Sans Souci Parkway, Hanover Township; Wyoming Avenue, West Pittston; South Main Avenue, West Scranton