When Frederick Law Olmsted wrapped up a long day of sketching out Riverside’s winding streets and picturesque park-like landscape, he liked nothing more than kicking back with a cream soda and admiring his work.
“Designing an entire village in the forest can sure make you thirsty!”
Actually that’s not true.
But it makes for a fun story, and besides there actually is a cream soda with that fictitious Olmsted quote on the bottle. In early August, “Refreshing Riverside” cream soda hit the shelves at Riverside Foods, 48 E. Burlington St., the result of a partnership between the store’s owner, a local graphic designer and a legendary Chicago soda pop manufacturer/bottler.
The cream soda is produced and bottled by Filbert’s, a South Side company that’s been around since Prohibition, and is particularly known for their root beer. But the label is all Riverside, down to the copy of an engraving of nattily-dressed swells watching a regatta on the river, which can be found in the Riverside Improvement Company’s original sales brochure, Riverside in 1871.
Riverside Foods’ co-owner, Peter Boutsikakis, said he began talking about producing a local product with his sales rep at Filbert’s back in January.
“We joked around that we should do something fun that would be exclusive to Riverside,” said Boutsikakis.
While that plan was brewing, Boutsikakis happened to run into Don Pogany in one of the aisles at the store, and the two got to talking. It turned out that Pogany was a graphic designer with his own ad agency, Sticky Worldwide.
“We met for a beer and a burger and everything fell into place,” said Boutsikakis.
Pogany said for his design for the label he looked to Riverside’s history. The word “Riverside” on the bottle is drawn in a font similar to the one used by Olmsted on his 1869 plan for Riverside.
“Peter and I both felt if we hinted at it, that’s what people would get out of it,” said Pogany. “I definitely wanted to conjure up that feeling of nostalgia. The font is both antique and funky and modern at the same time.”
On the side of the label, Pogany added Frederick Law Olmsted’s portrait with the quote about capping off a hard day of work with a refreshing drink.
“Obviously people feel strongly about the connection to [Olmsted],” said Pogany, “and because it’s a soda label, we thought we can have some fun with it.”
Boutsikakis says the cream soda is just the start. He’d like to sell other Riverside-centric products in the future and is already taste-testing a ginger ale to be released as early as the fall.
“We want it to be Riverside-focused and want to have fun with it,” said Boutsikakis.
Pogany thinks the products are good marketing tools for Riverside.
“Ideally, this will get some support,” Pogany said, “and I think it’d be a great calling card for the village.”