ST. LOUIS • St. Louisans now have an entire day to celebrate Vess Soda. As part of the soda’s 100th anniversary, July 11 is now Vess Bottle Day in St. Louis.
Vess representatives announced the official day through a proclamation signed by Mayor Francis Slay, while unveiling the giant Vess bottle’s new paint job on Monday.
The 34-foot tall bottle, once rusty with broken neon lighting, now has a bright coat of paint in the original lemon lime colors.
Painting the bottle was no easy feat. About a month ago, renovators discovered the bottle was too old and too damaged to transport easily. Instead, Deontay Haire, a painter with Antique Architectural Décor, worked on the bottle outside, at Sixth and O'Fallon streets north of the Dome at America's Center.
The hot weather limited how long he could work — the steel body would get so hot, paint dried as soon as Haire brushed it on.
Cott Beverages, which bought the Vess brand in 1994, had been toying with the idea of revamping the iconic bottle. The Vess centennial was the perfect impetus, said Jason Sorvillo, vice president of marketing for the company.
Repainting it "was kind of a no-brainer,” said Kirk Morrison, associate value brand manager for Cott Beverages. “A lot of people have memories and nostalgia based around the brand and we want to bring that back to life.”
Cott still operates bottling plants in the St. Louis area. Mike Roach works at a Cott plant in Maryland Heights.
“I grew up drinking Whistle Orange,” Roach said. “Anything we can do to improve the area is good for everybody. It’s been standing there for a long time. It’s part of St. Louis history.”
There were originally three giant Vess bottles across the city; one on West Florissant Avenue, another at Compton Street and Market Avenue, and another at a bus stop on Hampton and Gravois avenues. The Hampton-Gravois bottle eventually ended up at the corner of Sixth and O’Fallon streets.
It’s an example of “everyday, ordinary urbanism,” said Michael Allen, an architectural historian from Washington University.
“Neon signs once were up and down commercial streets,” Allen said. “Today, we have few remaining examples.”
Mike Pitliangas, owner of Antique Architectural Décor, said he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of adding the classic neon.
Jackie Treesh, whose family owns Treesh Neon, the company that did the original lighting on the bottle, provided the original color palette to make the bottle as authentic as possible. Treesh said she still drinks Vess in her favorite flavor, strawberry.