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Old South Texas Bottling Plant May Get New Look

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP

    When he was 6 years old, Wayne Adickes pressed his nose against the glass window to look into the Cuero Coca-Cola bottling plant.

    Now 73, Adickes remembers how the bottles clinked together on the assembly line and were washed and refilled with the sugary beverage with ease.

    "I was amazed by how automated it all was," Adickes said.

    Adickes, the chairman of the Cuero Heritage Museum board, was holding a blue folder thick with old photographs, using one to orient himself to the changes made at the building through the years.

    Now, the floor's hexagonal tile is a little gritty.

    No one knows what happened to the famed, 8-foot-tall neon Coca-Cola sign posted out front or a number of other memorabilia that once dotted the facade.

    Still, Adickes and other like-minded community members are convinced the place just needs a little TLC.

    "People will see it and think, `Oh, it looks like such a mess,' but it's actually very structurally sound," Adickes told the Victoria Advocate.

    He's hoping that in a year's time, they'll secure funding and the place will boast enough educational meeting space to accommodate as many as 170 people.

    The renovation plans also call for a small Coca-Cola museum inside, offices upstairs and a green space where workers used to load the product onto trucks.

    Reflecting on that time, Adickes pulled out a photo of the late E.T. Summers Jr. standing beside one such truck, which had bottles in small slots, exposed to the elements.

    "I always wondered what would happen if they went around a curb too fast and they slid off," he said, smiling.

    Summers was in his 90s when Adickes first met him.

    Summers succeeded his father, E.T. Summers Sr., as president of the local bottling company, but he started out delivering the drink.

    "When his father bought the bottling company, Coke was not popular," Adickes said, explaining how people preferred strawberry and orange drinks, "but he persevered, and Coke grew and grew and grew."

    The plant was built in 1931, coincidentally, by Adickes' grandfather, William Adickes.

    The elder Adickes impressed Summers with the work he did on his family home, so he was hired a second time.

    That was among several reasons Adickes implored the Cuero City Council to buy the building two years ago.

    The city afterward tore down a 1960s addition to the plant. It may need space in the plant later for the building department or other city offices, City Manager Raymie Zella said.

    "It was vacant for years before that," Zella said. "It was just kind of a downtown eyesore ... This will add to the looks and give citizens a place to gather."

    Zella estimated renovations would cost about $1 million.

    Architect Kim Williams, meanwhile, is trying to attract investors by combining federal and state tax credits.

    He thinks combining them could yield a 45 percent savings for every dollar spent.

    He also hopes to implement a public-private partnership.

    That's a legal framework through which Cuero -- instead of issuing a bond or a certificate of obligation -- could seek funds from private businesses or investors to implement the renovations.

    After the renovations are complete, the city could charge rent, which it would then turn over to the investors.

    The property would revert back into the city's hands after the project was paid off.

    The Texas Department of Transportation uses a public-private partnership to construct tollways. The tollways revert back to the state once they are paid off, Williams said.

    "Restoring the building will probably be the easy part; getting this innovative business plan is quite a challenge," said Williams, who also renovated the old Ford dealership into the county courthouse annex and the DeWitt County Courthouse.

    Summers, who died in May, was very happy when he found out about the project, his daughter, Linda Wagner, said.

    "I think people may remember Dad 100 years from now because of that. Coca-Cola would have been long gone by that time, but it's a good idea," she said.

    Although Wagner, of Port Lavaca, did not work for the company like her brothers, she remembered pounding away at a typewriter in her father's office as a child.

    "We also couldn't have anything but Coke," she said, chuckling. "If I went to a birthday party, and they didn't have Coke, I would just ask for water."