Remember Brookdale Soda?

brookdale birch beer.jpgAh a hot summer afternoon, back in the day, when basements were still called cellars … and they all contained a nice stash of the local favorite, Brookdale Soda. It was made and bottled on Sylvan Ave. Rd. in Bloomfield from the late 1920’s to the late 1980’s, when the Pieretti family sold it to a company that went out of business six months later. Joseph Pieretti, a realtor in Bloomfield, whose father owned the business, says there’s a resurgence of interest in the brand, and he gets emails from people all over the country.

I feel cheated that I grew up in Northern Virginia, because just about everybody I know who grew up here has fond memories of cases being brought out at family picnics or of how the soda was a staple of long, hot summer afternoons. When I interviewed the folks at Agolia & Sons on Broad Street the other day, they mentioned that the old Brookdale Soda billboard used to be across the street — where Brookside Garden Center now is.
But few people have a softer spot in their heart for the soda pop than poet-historian Anthony Buccino, who actually has a Brookdale soda clock in his basement and a blog devoted to the stuff. He took the photos in this post and wrote this ode to the old soda especially for us.

Every significant event in my life growing up in East Baristaville was accentuated by Brookdale soda.
Others relished the Thanksgiving turkey or the Easter ham, but as for me, give me my Brookdale orange soda.
.jpegAt a repast at someone’s home between viewings at Grandpa’s wake, I was first in line for the Brookdale Kola soda.
Drop the easy fly ball and lose the big game, it was all okay when I consoled my soul with that bright green lemon-lime Brookdale soda.
So now, who knows how many decades since Brookdale Beverage shut down that artesian well, burned the secret recipes and closed show, I’m still pining for a tall glass of ice bubbling with Brookdale birch soda.
The ice-breaker, so to speak, among Jersey baby boomers is, what’s your favorite Brookdale soda? Some people actually liked the celery flavor, or root beer best.
We kids used to wonder how people in the poor countries overseas grew up, deprived, without Brookdale soda, and we always finished ours so Ma wouldn’t have to pack it up and send it to them with our unfavored vegetables.
A rough morning with the nuns at Holy Family School was always made better with a glass of Brookdale soda with my sandwich when I got home for lunch with Mom. I drank it slowly as we watched her stories, Love of Life, Search For Tomorrow, and As The World Turns.
For me, it was Love of Brookdale Soda, Search for the Bottle Opener, and As the Ice Melts In the Brookdale Cherry and Cherry Pit.
So when I feel I’m getting old, I flip on my Brookdale soda sign on my basement bar and listen to the familiar voices around my imaginary table.

Another huge fan is a guy named Bobby Cole. There’s also a Brookdale Soda fan page on Facebook.
So on this hot, hot day, tell us your favorite memory of Brookdale Soda and your favorite flavor.

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  1. Aah..Brookdale Soda…I remember my Dad bringing it home in cases from Home Liquors in Verona..and then the Charles Chips truck would come up the street.

  2. My grandfather used to bring it home by the case and we also stored it in the cellar. I’m not a soda drinker but family faves were black cherry and cocoa cream as I recall. We used to get it from a place on US-46 near where Vince’s Market is now.
    Funny enough Heller and Heller (liquor store on Franklin Ave. in Nutley) had an ad for Brookdale painted on the side of their store until fairly recently… I guess they got tired of people coming in asking for it.
    I grew up in western NJ and we had a similar regional product from PA called A-Treat, which — as far as I know — you can still buy in that area.

  3. We had a Brookdale soda distributor in Fairfield on Route 46. I can still remember hoping my dad would come home with the Lemon-Lime flavor each time. And it wasn’t like Sprite or 7-Up, it was actually a yellow-green color. LOVED that.

  4. I remember my dad bringing us to the one in Clifton on Bloomfield Ave every other saturday. Its now a Shoppers Vineyard Liquors. I used to love picking out the flavors, the green one was my favoite. I forget what flavor it was but I liked the color. Who knows what kind of artificial flavoring and colors were in them back then. I still have the image of the entire place and can hear the sounds of the huge rollers that we used to send the empties down ringing in my ear right now. The sasparilla was a family favorite. Great memories of a long gone era.

  5. W=O-W, I have absolutely zero recall of this soda ever existing ! Never heard of it, until this article. I grew up in Essex County, too. Maplewood to South Orange to Millburn.
    Was it sold in stores, or was it picked up at the bottler? Was the Cola good?

  6. At some point before they all disappeared my mom saved a couple of the wooden cases complete with the Brookdale bottles. I wonder where that got to?

  7. Having married into the Brookdale Soda family in 1968 the Liscio’s along with the Pieretti’s were responsible for much of the success of the business. Long hours and hard work provided the consumer with an affordable, quality beverage. There is not a soft drink company today that produces a comparable beverage. For all of us who have those fond memories, aren’t we lucky? And yes, I can still taste the cream soda!

  8. This article just gave me a trip down memory lane. My brothers and I would look forward to every Friday night where we would drive down to Clifton to visit with my grandparents and hang our with my dad’s sister and brother. We would have pizza and mussels from Mario’s, and the highlight was which flavor of Brookdale soda to drink. We only drank soda for special occasions, so we would run down to the cellar (yes, cellar) to pick our flavor. Our Pop would make sure there was a full case before our visit – great guy and grandma is still with us at the age of 98!

  9. Boy oh boy, I used to love Brookdale sodas. It’s a shame how great local mom-and-pop brands like this are such a rarity nowadays.
    I was in middle school when their plant on Sylvan Rd. shut down. Funny that Pieretti ended up in real estate–soon after the plant closed, that chunk of land became a housing development.
    We used to call the development “Spielberg Town” cause it was one of the first streets in the area any of us had seen without above-ground telephone poles and electric wires–something that at time we equated solely with the cookie-cutter suburbs depicted in E.T. and other Hollywood flicks of that era.
    Christ, I’m getting old…

  10. Wow! Growing up in the late 50’s & early 60’s in North Newark, Brookdale soda had trucks that delivered right to your home. Yea! I’m THAT old. Then they phased out the trucks in favor of local stores…My favorite flavors were Wild Cherry, Lemon-Lime, Birch & Root Beers watching a Yankees game in black & white on WPIX (11), while my dad had a Ballantine…I think Brookdale and/or Nutley Shop-Rite carried their soda, too!

  11. I remember going to Chicky’s in Orange (Washington Street & Cleveland St) for produce and cases of Brookdale soda. My best memory is coming home from summer league baseball games, sneaking into my parents garage, and downing an entire bottle of Lemon-Lime green soda. It was warm, but I didn’t care. Still the best soda ever made. The black cherry was unbelievable too, even warm. You know it’s special when its great even warm. Please come back!!!!!

  12. I grew up in Montclair and also remember how happy we were to see the Brookdale Soda delivery man. That was real recycling, he brought a new case and took the empty one away, to be re-used again and again!

  13. While I have fond memories of the flavors, and the wooden cases, and going up that long driveway to the magical soda factory, my greatest memory, and greatest longing, is for the cases of old-style seltzer that we used to get delivered. These were the spritzer bottles right out of the Three Stooges, and the seltzer was absolutely fresh and wonderful. It made the best egg creams, and it was incredibly fun to use. You can argue about whether you can still get a decent orange soda any more (and I doubt anything has the quality of Brookdale’s, but that may just be nostalgia at work), but you just cannot find seltzer in a spritzer bottle, and that’s a real loss.
    Dan Fost

  14. Thanks for this, my favorite was the black cherry.
    I remember the truck delivering it to our house every week or two.
    I can even picture the man’s face.

    I don’t know if this makes me old, or I just got the tail end of all this stuff.

    Thanks for the story.

  15. I liked all the flavors. Joe Pieretti (Jr.) in the real estate business told me that when looking over a house for a listing he sometimes goes down in the cellar to look around and sees an old wood case with Brookdale bottles. Posted by Tom Garcia former Brookdale Beverage employee. (Now in New Mexico.)

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