In 1882, German immigrant Frederick Heilman arrived in Wabash, Indiana. By 1901 Heilman became the property owner of 87 E Market St., and in 1910 he built and opened Wabash Bottling Works. Over the years, the business would see other owners such as Stewart Smallwood, but perhaps the most memorable was Carl Scheerer.
Carl Scheerer was no stranger to the business world. A Huntington County native, Carl and his brother Lawrence opened Scheerer’s Market in Wabash in 1918. The grocery, located at 102 S Wabash St., had barely opened its doors before Carl was shipped off to France to fight in WWI.
Upon returning home, Carl continued to work alongside Lawrence as a grocer. The two maintained their business partnership for 22 years.
Carl’s wife, Helen Louise Pontius, was a graduate of Wabash High School, class of 1929. The two married in 1935, the same year they decided to purchase the G.M. Diehl swimming pool, but by the early 1940s, Carl was itching for a new business venture. Carl purchased the bottling building from Smallwood, and began operations as “Scheerer’s Beverages.” The bottling process soon consumed all of Carl’s time, so the grocery business was left to Lawrence to manage. In the early years, Carl would bottle soda by hand during the night and deliver during the day. Management of the swimming pool was left to Louise. As Carl invested in automated machinery and more staff, Scheerer’s drinks could be found all over Wabash County. In those days, almost every small town in Wabash County had their own grocery, and Carl provided his drinks to almost all of them. Concessions at Lukens Lake and Long Lake, the 4-H fair, and vending machines all ca
rried Carl’s locally famous flavors. From root beer, orange-pineapple, strawberry, lemon-lime, grape, and more, Carl’s soda recipe was delicious. Despite numerous requests for the recipe, Carl never disclosed his secrets.
The end for Scheerer’s Bottling Company came with the rise of the pop can. According to Louise, cans had to be purchased by the freight car full, and as a small business owner Carl did not want to go in that direction. While bottled pop phased out of Carl’s operations, he was quick to adapt to a new venture. Carl began crafting gallons of punch for weddings and other celebrations. If a bride provided him with her colors, Carl would ensure the punch matched perfectly. By the late 1970s, the Scheerer’s decided to finally close up operations and in 1981, Carl sold the bottling building and its contents to Jack and Marjorie Francis, who auctioned off some of the 43 bottle variations found inside. The bottles, now scattered across the County, are a reminder of the nearly 70 year local legacy of Carl, Louise, and the Scheerer’s Bottling Company.
Jones, S. (1985, July 28). ‘Wabash Pop Quenches Thirsty Memories.’ Chronicle-Tribune.
Ulery, E. (1981, May 7). ‘Things Soon to Start ‘Popping’ Again at Scheerer’s.’ Wabash Plain Dealer.