The Faygo Book is the social history of a company that has forged a bond with a city and its residents for more than a century. The story of Faygo, Detroit’s beloved soda pop, begins over a hundred years ago with two Russian immigrant brothers who were looking to get out of the baking business. Released this fall from Wayne State University Press, this 136-page book ($24.99) is a must for anyone interested in Michigan history, industry, innovation and pop culture (pun intended).
Starting with little more than pots, pails, hoses, and a one-horse wagon, Ben and Perry Feigenson reformulated cake frosting recipes into carbonated beverage recipes and launched their business in the middle of the 1907 global financial meltdown. It was an improbable idea. Through recessions and the Great Depression, wartime politics, the rise and fall of Detroit’s population, and the neverending challenges to the industry, the Feigensons persisted. Out of more than 40 bottlers in Detroit’s “pop alley,” Faygo remained the last one standing.
Within the pages of The Faygo Book, author Joe Grimm carefully measures out the ingredients of a successful beverage company in spite of dicey economic times in a boom-and-bust town. Take a large cup of family—when the second generation of Feigensons gambled with the chance at national distribution while the odds were stacked against them—and add a pinch of innovation—not just with their rambunctious rainbow of flavors but with packaging and television advertising that infused Faygo with nostalgia. Mix in a quality product—award-winning classics (and some flops) that they insisted on calling “pop,” despite the industry’s plea for a more grown-up name. Stir in a splash of loyalty to its locally hired employees, many of whom would stay with Faygo for decades. These are the values on which Faygo has hung its hat for generations, making it an integral part of communities across the country.
The Faygo Book is the story of a pop, a people, and a place. These stories and facts will tickle the taste buds and memories of Detroiters and Faygo lovers everywhere.
Joe Grimm has taught journalism at Michigan State University since 2008. Prior to that, he was an editor at the Detroit Free Press for twenty-five years. He is author or co-author of several books, including Coney Detroit (Wayne State University Press, 2012) and Windjammers: Songs of the Great Lakes Sailors (Wayne State University Press, 2002).