Author of "The Faygo Book" explains history of Detroit-based pop company
Mount Pleasant residents who remember growing up with Faygo pop were excited to attend an interactive presentation by Joe Grimm, author of “The Faygo Book".
to “celebrate Michigan foods” on June 12 in the Sarah and Daniel Opperman Auditorium.
Grimm said writing the book didn’t take off as quickly as he had hoped. He ended up getting the email address of a member of the “Faygo family” from a student of his.
“I wanted this book to work out,” he said. “I grew up watching the TV commercials and I loved them. The history of the company and the family is also interesting. They have always been so loyal to Detroit.”
Susie Feigenson, the granddaughter of one of the founding brothers of Faygo, helped Grimm gain necessary information to write his book.
The Faygo company is known for their early advertisements that helped the company gain popularity. The company paid to have signs posted on delivery trucks, wrote jingles about the company and made commercials with Jim Henson with the Muppets and Doner advertising.
Some ads and songs became extremely popular. The jingle, “Remember When You Were A Kid” sold 75,000 records, this was almost unheard of at the time.
Many of the audience members remembered the jingles and sang along to the songs during the presentation.
"I grew up with those commercials and they were so fun and catchy," said audience member Clare Leonard. "I'm excited to hear about the history."
History of Faygo
Throughout the presentation, Grimm changed into many different outfits to match the different events in the Faygo company's history.
He put on a flat cap to begin the story. Russian immigrants Perry and Ben Feigenson arrived in Detroit in 1905. They opened a “pop” store in the city in 1907 after Perry realized the baker’s life wasn’t for him.
Ben’s in-laws owned a pop factory, so Perry needed him to help start the company. Neither of them had any pop recipes, so Perry used frosting recipes to create the flavors for the drinks.
Business boomed for the Feigenson brothers during the automotive era.
The Feigensons began making so much pop that their bakery shop became too small. They expanded the company to a house a few blocks from the original shop.
“They were doing so well with their pop-making that they had to start another factory in their home,” Grimm said. “It took over the whole house. They were making it with a washtub, pots and pans, a rubber hose and something for capping the bottle.”
They needed a place big enough for their business, so they bought a factory in 1920 and hired additional employees. The most important addition was a machine that could produce 70,000 bottles of pop per day.
Grimm showed an old black-and-white photo of several employees working in the factory. One worker had a tobacco pipe in his mouth as he worked.
"Apparently touching the pop with human hands wasn't allowed, but smoking over it was fine," he joked.
Post wartime, Perry and Ben thought the company needed to make a comeback. The brothers opened another factory in a neighborhood known as “pop alley." Around 40 pop vendors worked in the neighborhood, including Coca Cola which overtook Faygo during World War II.
Grimm put on a paper hat, similar to a Krispy Kreme hat to explain the origin of the "Rock and Rye" flavor. One employee was tasked with making the drink, and he was told that he had to wave a rag over the product and chant a phrase. Perry said that the chant was the most important.
"He didn't believe that the spell would work, so he made the batch perfectly, except for the spell," he said. "The batch came out wrong. He tried again and still the flavor wasn't right. Then he tried the spell... and the batch came out perfect."
After the presentation, attendees went to a reception to drink pop and share stories.
Grimm will give another presentation about his book at 6 p.m. Thursday, June 20 at Art Reach's Morey Family Gallery in Downtown Mount Pleasant. Attendees can drink Faygo and vote for their favorite flavor.