I was recently on my way home from work when I noticed my car was almost completely out of gas. I’m usually pretty good about filling up, but hadn’t driven in a while and needed to quickly refill my tank. It was pouring down rain, and I was not on a major road, so I found the nearest gas station I could and quickly stopped. While filling up my tank I noticed an unusual sign on the door of the gas station. It was advertising a line of sodas known as “Exotic Pop”. If you’re not familiar with Exotic Pop, they are a company based out of Houston that specializes in rare and sometimes “exotic” snack foods and sodas. It’s quite a concept instead of operating traditional storefronts like competitor RocketFizz, Exotic Pop acts as a distributor providing these drinks and snack foods to independent stores and restaurants to stock. I had been dying to visit an Exotic Pop retailer since I learned about the company about a year ago, and this provided me with the perfect opportunity.
Once I entered the store I saw something that I was truly not prepared for, The decor package was very obviously from an old Texaco Star Mart, and while it hadn’t been updated, it was in great shape. I honestly wasn’t expecting the store to end up on my blog as I figured I’d buy a couple bottles of soda from an ugly convenience store and leave. Little did I know I was about to step into a Texaco Star Mart from the 1990s.
I ended up leaving with 4 bottles of Canada Dry I had never seen before, including one that is now my new favorite Cream Soda. This was a trip that I did not plan, and honestly would not have taken had I not needed to stop at this gas station. I guess it just really goes to show that you can’t judge a store based solely on its exterior!
Wow, that’s pretty awesome that this C-store still has very vintage Texaco decor that still looks like it is in great condition. In some ways, the photos of the old soft drinks and snacks from the very late 1980s/very early 1990s look older than the rest of the decor does, but they are probably both from around the same time. While this does look like an older gas station, the good, renovated condition of the pump area and canopy makes it even more surprising how vintage the inside looks.
The vintage soft drinks decor reminds me a lot of some photos I saw a couple months on the PlazaACME blog. PlazaACME found a Rite Aid in Delaware in an old Eckerd location which had not changed the late 1980s/early 1990s Eckerd decor at all. This is a pretty neat look for any Eckerd fan. The photos are towards the middle of the post: http://plazaacme.blogspot.com/2020/12/hey-my-backlogs-exactly-3-years-now.html
Speaking of those vintage soft drink cans, we used to take our old soft drink and beer cans to the local Safeway because the local Safeway shopping center had a Reynolds can recycling machine in it in the later part of the 1980s. If you fed it enough cans, it would pay you some paltry amount of money. The payout wasn’t much, but it was better than getting nothing for the cans by throwing them away! One of the major soft drink companies, Pepsi maybe, was still selling some of their drinks in steel cans at that time. The local bottler must have been a bit archaic in their ways or something. So, yeah, you had to be careful not to put steel cans in there. Right around the time that Reynolds machine went away, just about everyone had switched to using aluminum cans. Oh well, the days of getting a quarter for recycling a couple of bags of cans was over!
I’ve noticed that in Canada, stores regularly sell a greater variety of Crush products than what is generally available here in Houston. I looked forward to trying some different varieties of Crush when I was visiting up there.
There are a couple of good photos in the Chronicle Archives of the Reynolds Recycling Machine. I’m thinking a few of them must have stuck around to the AppleTree days as I do remember visiting one of the machines, but like you said the cash wasn’t worth it for the amount of cans you had to bring in. I have tried a few of the more “extreme” Crush flavors and IMO they come off too sweet. Very neat to see what options there are though!
Canada Dry makes a cream soda?!
Digging that classic soda signage. I have, somewhere in my attic, a model biplane made out of Sprite cans of that era. It hung in my bedroom much of my childhood, basically until I went off to college. I recall buying it at a craft fair or something like that, the seller had planes made out of other soda (and beer) brands but being a little kid I really wanted the Sprite one.
I’d love to see that Sprite Biplane! As for the Canada Dry Cream Soda, check this out. https://exoticpop.com/collections/merchandise/products/exotic-pop-canada-dry-vanilla-cream-air-freshener
I see they also have Hires Root Beer! (well, out of stock, but hopefully not for long. I’ve been looking for Hires for close to two decades now!