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Coca Cola Ends Small Glass Bottle Production

Posted at: 10/09/2012 5:55 PM
By: Katie Eldred

(ABC 6 NEWS) -- For more than 80 years Coca-Cola has bottled Coke in six and half ounce glass bottles. Tuesday that tradition came to end as the last six and a half ounce bottle in the entire country came off the assembly line in Winona.

It used to be that the six and half ounce glass bottles were the only way you could drink a Coke. As the last 6,000 bottles rolled through off the Winona bottling company floor, it marked the end of an era.

"I started in 1948," said President of the Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Winona, Clint Kuhlmann.

For 80 years Kuhlmann's family have run the Winona Bottling Company, the last in the country to sell and bottle using these historic cokes.

"We are discontinuing because the market turned to aluminum and plastic," said Kuhlmann.

Leroy Telstad, Kuhlman's son-in-law says the returnable glass bottles made up only 2 percent of their business, and the equipment used for production wasn't made to last this long.

"We took care of the old time equipment, we might have been a little stubborn, at the same time we've done it with pride," said Telstad.

More than 80 people gathered to watch as the last small glass cokes were bottled Tuesday morning.

"There are so many people who remember that as their first coke from when they were children," said Telstad.

"It's bittersweet there's a lot of emotion for everyone," said Michelle Gruber.

The bottled cokes have become a Winona tradition.

"I grew up in Winona, so I remember even as a little kid my mom or dad would buy them, it was kind of a Winona staple," said Gruber.

As the last bottle rolled of the line, Kuhlmann's smile was reminiscent of Coca Cola's old tag line "Have a Coke and a Smile."

While they may be ending one tradition they plan to continue another. Remaining a small family run business.

"I don't like to see this come to end, but we will still be here selling Coca-Cola products," said Kuhlmann.

The very last Coke bottle was auctioned off for two thousand dollars. The rest of the bottles from today's run-off are being sold to the public for $20 each. Six will be displayed in the "World of Coke" museum in Georgia.