by Erin Doane
Many who grew up in this area remember Fawn sodas. Fawn Beverages operated as a company in Elmira Heights for forty years, producing a wide variety of fizzy soft drinks in bottles with the distinctive little deer on the front.
In 1934, John Woyak filed a business certificate to operate Fawn Beverages at 184 Sheridan Avenue in Elmira Heights. He was just 30 years old at the time but he already had experience running a bottling works. He had been working as proprietor of the Orange Crush Bottling Works on 11th Street since 1929. Woyak ran Fawn Beverages for forty years. In 1947, he expanded the plant on Sheridan Avenue and in the late 1950s, his son Donald came on as a partner in the enterprise. The last listing for the company in the city directories appeared in the 1973-74 edition. Woyak moved to Florida in 1981 and lived out the rest of his years there.
While running his beverage company, Woyak was also an active member of the community. He was a member of the Elmira Heights Rotary Club and served for several years on the soft drinks committee for the club’s annual children’s Halloween party. In 1944, when El-Hi-Inn, a new organization for young people ages 13-19 in the Heights, was throwing a party, he donated a beverage cooler and 20 cases of soda for the event. He was also a generous supporter of the Chemung County Community Chest and in 1943, he served on the Elmira Heights village board.
Fawn produced a wide selection of sodas. In the late 1930s, eight flavors were available – ginger ale, lime and lithia, club soda, birch beer, root beer, strawberry, cherry, and orange. By the 1950s, Fawn was available in 12 different flavors. Orange was particularly popular and was advertised as a “special flavor thrill.” It was made from real California oranges and oil imported from Messina in sunny Italy. All the varieties were made in Elmira’s largest bottling plant with scientifically treated and purified water that brought out the delicious fruit flavors, locked in carbonation, and added zest to the beverages, according to ad copy from the 1950s.
In the late 1940s and early 1950s, Fawn Beverages seems to have made a major newspaper adverting push. Half a dozen new print advertisements appeared in 1949 alone. The carry home carton that held six 12-ounce bottles was a major selling point. Fawn advertised on the radio as well. In 1950, the company sponsored the radio show Boston Blackie starring Richard Kollmar on WENY. The radio series, produced between 1945 and 1950, followed the adventures of Boston Blackie, a jewel thief and safecracker turned detective. From the 1930s through the 1960s, the company also sponsored a bowling team.
Erin Doane is the curator at the Chemung County Historical Society. This was originally published HERE Sept. 11, 2017