Chances are, Willie Mua and Edress Irving get more done before 9 a.m. than you do all day.
The two veteran delivery drivers for Coca-Cola Bottling of Alaska, the locally owned Coke bottler in Anchorage, start their day at 4 a.m. when they hop behind the wheel of a truck loaded with cases and cases of Coke products – from Dasani, to Sprite Zero, to Powerade.
Between them, they’ll make 20 to 30 stops over the course of a 10-hour shift, delivering drinks and restocking shelves in mom-and-pop convenience stories, gas stations, offices, supermarkets and big-box retailers along their respective routes.
It’s hard work, but rewarding thanks largely to the camaraderie they share with the neighbors they visit each week.
Combined, the two men have worked for Odom for 41 years (24 for Irving and 17 for Mua). During this time, they’ve seen a lot of change as Coke’s beverage portfolio has expanded and Coca-Cola Bottling of Alaska’s business has grown. “There’s more on my truck now, and I’m making more stops,” Mua said.
But a commitment to customer service, and to the local community, has remained constant.
“I have great relationships with my customers, many of whom I’ve delivered to for years. They know me,” said Mua, who joined the Coca-Cola family in 2000. “It’s all building a bond.”
Irving says he delivers more than Coke. He delivers happiness.
“When you walk in and people smile, it feels good,” he said. “It’s like family in a sense because I’ve been delivering to them for so many years. You become attached. And that makes the job that much easier and more enjoyable.”
Mua, who was born in American Samoa and lived in Hawaii before moving to Anchorage in 1991, loves the quiet calm and productivity of the pre-dawn hours. Alaska’s seasonal daylight patterns, he admits, do present a few challenges.
“The hardest part is getting up at 3 a.m.,” he says with a laugh. “In the summer, we have 24 hours of daylight. And in the winter, it’s the opposite… it’s dark all the time, and it’s cold. After my shift, sometimes I’ll take a nap and wake up thinking it’s the next day.”
This schedule enables both men to be with their families and stay active with church and volunteer activities. “I’ve raised all four of my kids thanks to this job,” said Irving, who’s also a grandfather. “I’ve had the flexibility and time to be very active with my kids and to spend more quality time with them. That’s a blessing in itself.”
He’s proud of his association with both a classic American brand and a company with deep, local roots. “I take a lot of pride in the fact that I work for Coca-Cola,” he said. “And to have done so for all these years. And everyone here recognizes the strength of Coca-Cola in the local communities we serve here in Alaska. We do everything from donations, to sponsorships.”
Mua, a father of five, agrees. “I tell my boss that I do everything with pride. I’m happy to be part of the Coca-Cola family.”
And this pride has rubbed off on his family. His 12-year-old son even hopes to one day follow in his dad’s footsteps. “He said, ‘Dad, I want to drive a Coca-Cola truck just like you.”