N.C. Matthewson, founder of The Made-Rite Company
In 1925, N.C. Matthewson, pharmacist and entrepreneur, founded The Made-Rite Company in Marshall, Texas. The company's original location was in the old Marshall Bottling Works and operated primarily in Harrison County. After being issued the third Dr Pepper franchise in the United States (authorizing distribution in four counties), Matthewson's single, foot-powered bottle capper produced Dr Pepper, NEHI, and other soft drinks. When the company was expanded in 1928 to include additional territory in Longview (population about 2,500), Miss Natalie Williams, Matthewson's sister-in-law, was brought into the business as bookkeeper. Escalating production quickly mandated the purchase of two new Dixie bottling machines that required water chilled with large blocks of ice from the local ice plant. The soft drinks were delivered in cases that consisted of four each of six flavors: Dr Pepper, Strawberry, Lemon, Cream Soda, Orange, and Grape. Ironically, the bottles of Dr Pepper often had to be picked up because of poor sales.
In the early years, N.C. Matthewson concocted his own soft drink flavors. The name Made-Rite resulted from his desire to market the good tast of his products. Shown are some of his originals.
Jack S. Mann married Matthewson's daughter in 1929 and began as an office cashier with a salary of $100 a month. Jack S. became manager of Matthewson's Henderson Made-Rite plant and bought into the company in 1931. The Henderson plant was 32 feet wide by 60 feet long with a wook floor and a hand-operated filling machine plus two trucks (and Mann's own car) for deliveries. His company office was in one corner of the building, but the books were maintained at home. When the East Texas Oil Boom hit in 1931, the demand for soft drinks grew rapidly, and the plant began working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Drink prices during that time were 75 and 80 cents per case, with no deposit for bottles.
The Made-Rite Company fleet circa 1931.
Following Matthewson's death in 1935, Jack S. Mann and Natalie Williams bought The Made-Rite Company stock at book value, and in 1937 purchased the original Pine Bluff, Arkansas territory from Dr Pepper Little Rock. At one time, Jack S. Mann operated Dr Pepper bottling plants in Shawnee, Oklahoma; Wilson, Pine Bluff and Fayetteville, North Carolina; and Burlington, Iowa, but eventually sold off all but the Longview plant. The business continued to grow and prosper (along with the belated popularity of Dr Pepper), and in 1957, Williams and Mann sold a one-fourth interest to his son, Jack M. Mann, current company president.
During World War II, Made-Rite trucks were retrofitted with loading pads that were used to store scrap metals collected during deliveries.
The Marshall and Henderson plants were phased out in 1963 when the new facility opened on Industrial Blvd in Longview. There have been four building expansions since then, the most recent being the purchase of a 60,000 square foot warehouse across the street from the original warehouse on Inudstrial Blvd. And in 1988, the business was modified to include snack, coffee, and food vending that brought new products and territories to the company. Made-Rite discontinued bottling operations in 1990 and affiliated with Southwest Canners, a bottling-canning cooperative that provides most of the product the company distributes.
Made-Rite's ownership and board of directors now consists of multiple members of the Mann family. Jack M. Mann, president of the company since 1971, is now semi-retired but still owns a small portion of the company and shares ownership with his four sons. Nathaniel (Nat) Mann serves as vice-president and general manager, while Robert (Bob) Mann, Jack M. Mann, Jr., and Dan Mann are active partners in the company.
The Made-Rite Company, having celebrated its 75th anniversary in the year 2000, now serves more than 15 counties and mostly markets a line of soft drink brands now owned by Cadbury-Schweppes that includes Dr Pepper drink products. "Dr Pepper will always be our banner for advertising and our mainstay brand," says Jack Mann. "We have been fortunate in this East Texas market we have fought for over the years, that Dr Pepper drink products consistently run neck-and-neck with Coke product sales. Actually, market research shows that people in our market do drink more Dr Pepper than Coke. We want to thank East Texans for their loyalty, and as our brand slogan says, for 'being a Pepper.'"