'In the last two years we've grown about 38 percent.'
DRINKING IT UP: Nearly a century old, Yacht Club Bottling Works mainly sells to small markets, cafes and restaurants. Pictured above, from left, are John Sgambato, company president, his father, Bill Sgambato, and brother, Mike Sgambato.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
Located deep in the heart of Centerdale village, Yacht Club Bottling Works has been a fixture in the state for more than 90 years. This family-owned-and-operated business has managed to increase its sales despite a down economy thanks to some new marketing and good, old-fashioned know-how.
“In the last two years we’ve grown about 38 percent,” said President John A. Sgambato, 28. He has taken over for the recently semi-retired Bill Sgambato, 70, his father.
John Sgambato’s grandfather started at the company in 1935 before purchasing it in 1961. Prior to that it had been owned by the Sharp family since the day it opened in 1915.
Yacht Club offers 33 flavors, from birch beer and sarsaparilla, to diet cream soda and everything in-between. Everything is made on-site, including the family’s flavor-syrup recipes. The water is pumped from an artesian well drilled in 1923, the date of the current building, to a depth of 180 feet. This natural mineral water – hence the name of the street – is primed for carbonation.
However, don’t be surprised if you don’t find the soda at your neighborhood’s national supermarket chain – chances are it’s not there. Yacht Club is made using quality ingredients and not a cheaper high fructose corn syrup. As a result, it costs more to make than a nationally branded soda sold to supermarkets in bulk.
“They want it for nothing,” Sgambato said of the retailers. For this reason the company usually supplies smaller markets, cafes and restaurants. Food trucks are also a growing segment where Yacht Club is supplied. The company’s business plan is to provide a high-quality drink with no corn syrup and to go local. With no major food markets to sell their product in bulk, the soda has survived by selling one bottle at a time in small venues. Not only has it survived but now business is growing.
A new outlet for the drink and a departure from the norm is the Hope Street Farmers’ Market in Providence, where Yacht Club is sold as a locally made product, no different from vegetables or fish.
The company’s new and growing focus on social media has contributed to a boost in sales. If you ever need to fill an order, it’s simply a point and a click away. If you need historical information, there are a few videos on YouTube that are available.