Once a thriving Coca-Cola bottling plant, 209 Main Street in Cedartown, Ga. had seen better days. 

Decades ago, locals would peer into the front windows to watch bottles pass by on a conveyor belt, chat with their local bottler and buy an ice-cold Coke directly off the production line. The building was sold in the 1970s and briefly housed a lumber company before becoming vacant. The site was in such disrepair that the city considered condemning it. After narrowly escaping a bulldozed fate, the building reopens its doors this weekend for the first time in almost 40 years with a nod to its storied past.

The newly renovated building is now home to the Cedartown Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia.

An Old Soul

Though he was not yet alive when the bottling plant was a Main Street staple, 19 year-old Daniel Morris spearheaded the effort to reopen its doors. A lover of history, he appreciated Cedartown’s past, which the building and Coca-Cola had helped to shape.

Morris began collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia when he was in the eighth grade, with a particular interest in advertising collectibles. He saw timeless value -- and timeless stories -- in vintage Coca-Cola signage and artifacts. His frequent trips to Coca-Cola collector shows and antique dealers have taken him as far west as Arizona, and as far north as Indiana. His unparalleled, ever-expanding Coca-Cola collection eventually grew so large that it needed a building of its own.

Cedartown Museum - Daniel with Family and Jamal

Daniel Morris greets guests during a preview event at the Cedartown Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia.

More than a storage unit, the building is central to the stories of Morris' collection. By restocking the space with Coca-Cola memorabilia, he is helping to reactive it with memories of Coca-Cola’s presence in Cedartown -- about 60 miles east of the company's Atlanta headquarters -- while providing visitors a case study in American history.

“People in small towns all across America remember seeing their local Coke bottler in the front window," Morris said during a preview event at the museum. "Every town that had a bottler, their bottling company was set up the same way. The public was very much involved.”

The memorabilia speaks to far more than Coca-Cola’s products; it provides context for the daily lives and values of its consumers and fans. Coca-Cola advertisements and bottlers reflected the social climate of their time.

Cedartown Museum - Loaned Object

Sharing such information, Morris believes, is the duty of a collector. He says collecting should be about more than simply storing memorabilia in a house, but instead valuing and preserving the pieces of history so others can study and learn from them.

The converted bottling plant is the perfect location to display such history. “I want people to see these things I’m buying," he said. "The building, to me, was a prime opportunity to say, ‘If I’m going to collect seriously for the rest of my life, I have to have somewhere to put all of this stuff.’ And what better place than this building, which already has such a rich Coca-Cola history.”

Cedartown Museum - Collection 3

209 Main Street

In retrospect, Morris acknowledges that selecting a different building, requiring less renovation, would have been easier. The site’s history as both a Coca-Cola bottling plant and as an enduring presence on Main Street, however, justified the decision. “We care about this history," he said. "So, this building was special because it did make it. It almost didn’t make it... but it did.”

George Mundy, who sought protection for the historic building and supported the Morris family’s acquisition, recalls the poor state of the former plant upon their purchase. “I understand that the day they closed on this building it was snowing outside," he said. "And upon inspection of the building, it was snowing inside.”

Cedartown Museum - Viewing Collection

Morris, who enjoys picking up a hammer, played a hands-on role in the project. “There are very few realms of construction that we have not conquered in this project,” he said, referring to the building's collapsed roof, poor insulation and decaying facade.

The renovation represents the largest private investment anyone has made on Main Street in years. By restoring this historical site, Morris believes he is helping to bolster Cedartown’s historical district, which, in turn, is critical to the strength of the town. “Small towns with these historic main streets across America are suffering,” he said. "By us cleaning up our block, it will help preserve this part of our Main Street.”

Mundy adds, “If your town had a Coca-Cola bottling plant, it means your town was significant.” 

Cedartown Museum - Collection 1

The Grand Opening

It is rewarding for Morris to share his collection with an enthused community. “Probably hundreds of locals have come up to me and said, ‘I can still remember looking through the front window and seeing the bottles go by when it was open.’” 

Cedartown Museum - Exterior Windows

He adds, “By opening this museum, we are not only able to rekindle so many memories for Cedartown locals but to preserve a part of American history that seems so easy to forget as the years go by, but means so much to generations of committed Coca-Cola lovers.”

Join Morris from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, June 25, for the museum’s grand opening. Admission is free, knowledge is plenty, and the museum will, of course, serve ice-cold Coca-Cola. Click here for directions and more information.

Hannah Nemer is a summer intern at The Coca-Cola Company