NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WIVB) — For nearly 100 years, the Janik family has been bringing some sweetness to Western New York.
Whether you like your Johnnie Ryan Soda in a glass bottle or from the fountain, it’s made right in Niagara Falls.
“A typical day here involves everything. We’re making the soda, we’re bottling it, we’re working on the production line, we handle the design of the product – really every aspect of it,” said company vice president John Janik.
In 1935, three brothers – John, Steven and Walter – decided it was time to take their ozonated water business to the next level.
“My Uncle Walt had owned his own Coca-Cola route, so he would go out and peddle Coca-Cola,” said Johnnie Ryan president Paul Janik. “As time went on and Coke grew, they wanted to focus on colas and they dropped their line of flavors, which he saw an opening in the market for that. So already being kind of in a bottling water business, they started the Johnnie Ryan company.”
The company now has 11 flavors – including cherry, cream soda and even birch beer – and is currently in its third generation, owned by brothers Paul and John.
“We spend a lot of time together every day,” Paul said. “It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears and we’ve made it happen.”
On a typical eight-hour day, Johnnie Ryan Soda pumps out 2,000 cases – that’s 48,000 bottles of soda.
It’s also all done in the iconic glass bottle.
“It’s something special, and for younger kids they love the bottle. But you even go to the older generations and this reminds them of being a kid. This is how soda used to be,” Paul said. “They’re beautiful, painted bottles, which nobody uses anymore because they’re so expensive. We spare no cost in anything that we do. We use all our old recipes for the Johnnie Ryan brand – we’ve got a secret file in the back that was leftover from our uncles. It’s just a lot of history.”
The company ships the bottles all across the country and even into Canada, but that’s not all their known for. When you order a cola – or even loganberry – from some of your favorite Western New York spots, you might just be drinking Johnnie Ryan soda.
Now the brothers are finding other adventures in the soda business with some well-known names.
After meeting Gene Simmons at a signing, Paul and John began a soda collaboration with the Kiss bassist off of Simmons’s trademarked Moneybag logo.
“He’s just been one of the best business partners. He goes on chain calls with me, we go to stores. He’s so involved and he loves doing it, he loves us and our families. We’re not ‘yes’ people, we’re nerds like him,” Paul said.
Now, with the fourth generation already in house, the Janik brothers are looking forward to what’s next for Johnnie Ryan.
“Coke and Pepsi are obviously the big guys. But I think the bottom line is, Coke and Pepsi can never be Johnnie Ryan,” John said. “You can’t buy history. You can’t buy neighbors and family and friends – that’s kind of what we are.”
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Marlee Tuskes is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.