Galco’s First Ever Soda Tasting, Press Release, Article, July, 2011

As the penultimate soda pop store in the entire world – yes, I will make that claim! – Galco’s of Highland Park is one of those stores you love to visit and love to love. Heart, soul, a good story, good people and good sodas…it’s all here. When the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition asked if I could help them promote the first ever soda tasting at the famed location, I jumped at the chance. Here’s the press release and a subsequent article that appeared in the July issue of the Boulevard Sentinel:

World Renowned Galco’s Soda Pop Stop Hosts First Ever “Summer Soda Tasting” Benefit Event on July 24, 2011
Live Music, Auction and An Appearance by Humorist Charles Phoenix

What better way to celebrate summer than enjoying a classic soda with the “King of Pop?”

Old favorites, new offerings and a few surprises will be on tap at Galco’s Soda Pop Stop’s first-ever Summer Soda Tasting event at 5-8 p.m. on Sunday July 24 at the historic Highland Park locale.

Hosted by Galco’s owner, John Nese, aka the “King of Pop,” the event will feature a myriad of soda samples, live music, a silent auction, and an appearance by retro humorist Charles Phoenix who will be mixing up “poptails,” kid-friendly cocktails made with soda. Phoenix will be serving up three different creations: “The Galco,” “The Southwest” and “The Highland Park.”

The event benefits the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition, an organization that works to preserve Los Angeles’ first museum.

Sodas selections will be various flavors (some new) from Hanks, Fentimans, Bundaberg, Waialua Soda Works and Red Ribbon. In addition to soda tastings, the Galco’s store will be open so people can stock up on any soda, candy, beer, wine.  Proceeds from all store sales at the event will also be donated to the Friends of the Southwest Museum by Galco’s.

Advance tickets for this first ever Soda Tasting are $12 and can be purchased at Galco’s or online at  Day-of tickets at the event will be $15.

 Galco’s is located at 5702 York Boulevard, Highland Park, 90042. For more information, call (323) 255-7115

Galco’s First Ever Soda Tasting Party is benefit for Southwest Museum
July 24 event offers soda, music and fun for all ages

By Brenda Rees

Wine and craft beer tastings are so passé, but a soda tasting? Now, that’s new and different!  Many people and groups have approached John Nese, the owner of Galco’s Soda Pop Shop, with the intent on having a shindig at the historic Highland Park locale. 

Nese, however, has always resisted. “I have refused soda sampling for years because I have told customers that it’s more fun for you to buy the sodas here and then do it at home,” he says.

Months ago, however, Nese was finally convinced to open his really-one-of-a-kind store for the first-ever public soda sampling extravaganza. Set to take place the evening of Sunday July 24, the “Summer Soda Tasting” invites soda lovers of all ages to drop by anytime from 5-8 p.m. and try out some unique brands, experience new flavors and taste some new surprises.

In addition, participants can enjoy music, ante up for a silent auction and are encouraged to stock up on sodas, candies, etc., as the store will be open because all proceeds from the purchases will be part of the fundraising benefit for the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition. 

Another special event highlight includes an appearance by King of Retro, humorist Charles Phoenix, who will be mixing and serving up his new culinary creation –  “poptails” – crazy and fun soda combinations topped off with candy garnishes. 

What made Nese change his mind?

“This soda sampling is for a good cause because it’s going to benefit the community. The profits from tickets for the evening, including the sales at the store, will go the Friends of the Southwest Museum,” he says. “Because we want our museum to be a reality, not locked in some storage shed. We want to be able to have a living, breathing museum in our area once again.”

Nese and organizers are planning the evening to be a community-building experience “where soda and retro-loving folks, who might not know the details of the closing of the Southwest Museum, can learn about the issues surrounding L.A.’s oldest and first museum,” says Nicole Possert representative of the Friends of the Southwest Museum.

Built in 1914, the Southwest was originally located in downtown Los Angeles in 1907, but moved to its permanent Mt. Washington home through the tireless work of historian, journalist and Native American booster, Charles Lummis. Working with city leaders of the day, Lummis directed the construction and completion of the stunning building which was designed by noted architects Sumner P. Hunt and Silas R. Burns.

For years, the museum welcomed serious scholars of the American Southwest, schoolchildren and the community, inviting everyone to learn about the life, times, art and culture of all the peoples of the Southwest. One of the largest and most important in the United States, the museum features rare collections of Native American basketry, ceramics, dress and ceremonial artifacts. The museum also has a vast and significant collection of Spanish and Mexican American artifacts and objects important to the development of the Southwest in the early 20th century.

The Southwest Museum board started having operational difficulties in the 2000s, and decided to merge with Autry’s Museum of the American West in 2003.  In 2005, Autry closed the exhibitions and greatly limited public access. And finally in 2009, the museum was officially closed with the Autry using the site to warehouse and preserve the Southwest Museum Collection while developing a plan to soon move the massive collection to a storage facility in Burbank.

Residents have been vocal about the loss of the Southwest Museum to a larger entity, forming the Friends of the Southwest Museum Coalition to advocate that the museum once again return and re-open on its home atop the hill in Mt. Washington.

As of this writing, the fate of the museum is still being decided. Last month, members of the Coalition attended City Council hearings in which the Autry proposed a project that essentially relocates the functions of the Southwest Museum to Griffith Park. The City approved the project despite concerns raised by Coalition members, which now are contemplating legal action. This latest chapter has elevated the issue again but greater public awareness is needed.

In addition to being a fundraiser for the Friends of the Southwest Museum, the Summer Soda Tasting is a way for Nese to tip his hat to certain respected soda brands that have been part of the store’s offerings since the soda pop niche began taking off in the 1990s.

Nese gets excited when he talks about these sodas that the public will be sampling: Hanks from Philadelphia (“We were the first store West of Chicago to carry them”), high-end Fentimans from England and Red Ribbon from Pennsylvania, a company that still uses the old-fashioned pin-point carbonated method that was the norm for soda production from 1920s to mid-1960s (“It’s all done with dry ice, that’s the way it was done back then and this makes a distinct unique tasting soda”).

The Aussie soda Bundaberg will also be poured as well as samples of Waialua Soda Works that operates out of Hawaii. Representatives from all the soda brands will be on hand to answer questions, listen and talk with soda aficionados.  Of course, sampling sodas and rubbing elbows with the King of Pop, John Nese, promises to be a rare treat indeed.

Being a little coy, Nese and Possert also suggest that participants should expect soda surprises that may involve not-yet-on-the-market flavors…or even brands. “You don’t want to miss this event,” says Possert a little mysteriously.

The store will be opened for sales that evening, so soda lovers can stock up on any items from drinks to old-fashioned candy – all proceeds will also go to the Friends of the Southwest Museum.

In addition, community and local businesses have donated items for a silent auction for the festive evening. Of particular note is a 2 ½ foot wide handmade piece of knitted art from Mt. Washington artist Lauri Mraz. “Southwest Museum, Empty,” depicts in knitted form a somewhat deflated building, which Mraz says is a political statement.

“So many people don’t realize that the museum is closed. They show up and expecting it to be opened and it’s not,” she says. This artwork “is a symbol of what we are missing in our community and the tragic nature of what has happened to the oldest museum in Los Angeles.”

Mraz looks forward to attending the Summer Soda Tasting evening. “It is going to be a great event and it’s going to draw a lot of people. I have a feeling it’s going to be a happening spot that Sunday night!”


Tickets for Galco’s Summer Soda Tasting Event on Sunday, July 24, 2011.

Advance tickets for this first ever Galco’s Summer Soda Tasting are $12 and can be purchased at Galco’s or online at  Day-of tickets at the event will be $15; ticket sales are limited. Buy now and don’t be disappointed.

Summer Soda Tasting takes place from 6-8 p.m. Drop by anytime for sampling, conversation and festivities. Families, couples and groups are welcomed.

Galco’s is located at 5702 York Boulevard, Highland Park, 90042. For more information, call (323) 255-7115.