Rotarians learn history of Twig’s Beverage


Lorna Marquardt, Leader Columnist

“In America, small business is a big deal.” — Bob Beauprez

Local service clubs are an important part of our community. Each club contributes in different ways to a variety of causes. As a member of our local Rotary Club, finding speakers for our weekly meetings is my task for the next year.

This week, Shawano’s own Dan Hartwig spoke to our club. Dan is president and CEO of Twig’s Beverage. The history of Twig’s, along with future plans, was so interesting, I thought you might enjoy hearing about it, too.

The Hartwig families were immigrants from Germany. They settled west of Bonduel. Many of you might remember Leonard Hartwig, a well-known barber here in Shawano. His nickname was Shorty. He was the father of Floyd. Dan’s parents were Floyd and Velda.

Floyd Hartwig worked for Orie Williams Bottling, which is now Pomp’s Tire. Floyd learned refrigeration at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He serviced several breweries while in Milwaukee. In 1950 Floyd was drafted in the Korean War. Dan recalls, “On the 24th of April he was 24 years old and he was in the 24th Division. Dad was shot during the war. While laying in the hospital in Tokyo he dreamed of starting a bottling business in Shawano.”

Floyd sent his military checks back home to his mother to be used to invest in glass bottles. Upon returning from war, Floyd and his softball buddies started up a bottling plant. Floyd, or Twig, as he was known, purchased land at 711 S. Washington St.,where the business remains today. The business started out slowly. Earlier soft drink brands included Bullseye Rootbeer and Goody Orange. It wasn’t until the inventor of Sundrop, Charles Lazier, asked Floyd to sell and distribute his product, that Sundrop made its way into the Shawano area. In the 1950s, many bottlers competed in the local area. Twig’s steadily grew its business and flourished.

When Floyd’s health deteriorated in 1986, Dan took over the company. In 1995 the company expanded and began distributing Sundrop, Crush, Sunkist and other drinks to all of northeastern Wisconsin and Upper Michigan.

Dan joked, “I am a graduate of Sacred Heart School, Shawano High School and the Sundrop University.”

He continued, “After I purchased the business, I set my goals of trying to increase business 3 percent per year. With the help of God, my family, employees and friends, we have been able to meet those goals and sometimes exceed them. We really appreciate our loyal customers.”

Dan and his wife, Diane, have three sons: Luke, Jake and Ben.

Luke is a graduate of Marquette University with degrees in philosophy and chain supply management. He joined his dad and mother in the business. Luke purchased the house on the corner of Franklin and Danks streets. At the time he purchased it, the house had bright green and yellow trim. Some called it the Packer house, but Dan laughed and commented, “I always thought of it as the Sundrop house.”

Jake and Ben are attending UW-Milwaukee.

Dan commented, “Sometimes you hear kids say there is nothing to do in Shawano. My boys look forward to coming back. Our whole family loves Shawano; this is where we want to be. I learned at an early age that Shawano is a great place to live. I like to fish, golf and eat. You can walk down the street and say hello to everyone.”

Dan remarked, “Shawano’s claim to fame is that we were the first bottlers in the state of Wisconsin. Twig’s Beverage is the last to produce Sundrop in a returnable bottle. We still bottle the old-fashioned way with granulated beet or cane sugar.”

Later this month, Twigs will be introducing a new carbonated ice-tea drink called Sotea. “We’re pretty excited about it,” Hartwig remarked.

Twigs also implemented a bottled water line labeled “Shawano Drinking Water.”

In 2006, the company purchased a burned-out building that was directly behind its factory with the intent of making it into a storage facility. After some sandblasting and painting, they decided a museum might be a better use. Hartwig showed Rotarians some samples of some of the old memorabilia he has for the museum, including wonderful old pictures, signs, bottles, wooden cases and so much more.

Hartwig said the museum will have an area where where the public can watch the bottling process, learn how sugar is refined and how returnable bottles are manufactured. Sundrop gift items will be available. The date of the museum opening has not yet been determined.

The Hartwigs give back so much to the communities they serve. For the number of people, there is more Sundrop sold here than anywhere in the world! That says a lot.

The answer to the trivia question — In what year was the Shawano Municipal Hospital built? — is 1931.

This week’s question: In what year was the Shawano Equity Co-op founded, and where was it first located?

Lorna Marquardt is the mayor of Shawano.