Learn about Faygo’s connection to Detroit at Hazel Park library event

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published February 8, 2019


HAZEL PARK — The eye-catching colors and bubbly tastes of Faygo soft drinks are well-known to metro Detroiters, and are an inseparable part of the area’s history and culture. Those who want to learn more about the company’s connection to Detroit — and also sample the various flavors — can look forward to an upcoming event at the Hazel Park District Library. 

Set to take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 21, at the library, located at 123 E. Nine Mile Road, just east of John R Road, the presentation will feature Joe Grimm, a professor of journalism at Michigan State University, a 25-year veteran of the Detroit Free Press, and author of “The Faygo Book,” published by Wayne State University Press last fall.

“Faygo’s flavors (and) its commercials with Black Bart and the Faygo Kid and ‘The Boat Song’ stir different memories with different people,” Grimm said in an email. “These times are complicated and difficult. I love seeing people take a trip back to when they were kids. If there was a lesson in this book for me, it was the story about the power of loyalty.” 

Faygo was founded in Detroit more than 111 years ago, in 1907, by Russian brothers Perry and Ben Feigenson, starting with just three flavors that were based on recipes for cake frosting: fruit punch, grape and strawberry — now better known as Redpop. 

Since then, the company has grown to include 100-plus flavors, more than 50 of which it still makes today. The company has been owned by the National Beverage Co. in Florida and continues to operate in the Detroit factory that has been its home since 1935. 

“Faygo has been loyal to the same east-side neighborhood for 111 years,” Grimm said. “It has outlasted many iconic companies and all the other bottlers in Detroit’s ‘pop alley.’ It has employed thousands of people and won a home in the hearts of Detroiters. 

“We love our pop — and that’s what we call it. We love its many flavors; we love to compare our favorites, and it brings back memories,” he said. “A popular Faygo jingle was, ‘Remember when you were a kid?’”

Grimm began researching and writing “The Faygo Book” in 2012, after co-authoring another food-themed work, “The Coney Book.”

“I guess all those coneys just made me thirsty,” he quipped. “Seriously, that book was well-received, and I thought Faygo, another iconic Detroit food, would have similar appeal.”

While he began in 2012, the book didn’t start taking shape until 2016, when he interviewed Susie Feigenson, the granddaughter of Ben Feigenson, one of Faygo’s co-founders. 

“Susie Feigenson tells so many good stories in the book,” Grimm said. “They really give the human side of the Faygo story.”

The book was recently named one of the Michigan Notable Books for 2019, a list of 20 titles compiled by the Michigan Department of Education and the Library of Michigan.

Grimm said that he has many favorite flavors, including Redpop, root beer, creme soda, grape and orange.

“But I put Rock & Rye at the top of my classics,” he said. “For modern flavors, I like the grapefruit and cherry taste of Arctic Sun.” 

Randy Ernst-Meyer, the adult and teen librarian at the Hazel Park District Library, said that there’s a flavor for everyone’s tastes, and that’s part of the brand’s enduring appeal.

“For me, I think having soda pop makes Michigan a better place, in a way,” Ernst-Meyer said. “It may sound silly, but everyone here knows Faygo, whether they drink it or not. It’s a distinctive part of Detroit. People grow up with the stuff.

“For me, my favorite flavor is Rock & Rye. I’m from Chicago, and I would always hunt down the Rock & Rye. But my wife’s favorite is creme soda, and my teens prefer the fruit punch and orange pop. It seems that everyone has their own favorite flavor,” he said. “For everyone who ever ran into a Faygo, there’s a Faygo that’s theirs. I think that’s because there are so many of them. They’re like something you own, and I just think that’s really cool.” 

For more information, call the Hazel Park District Library at (248) 546-4095.