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Lauren and Ford Swigart boys 100th celebration Lambert

a Pepsi franchise in 1939. “At one time they bottled their own soda

called Blue Rock Soda,” says Stang. “Which you don’t find too many of those bottles laying around.” After the Pepsi deal, Blue Rock benefited

from a number of developments that helped sales. From actress Joan Crawford, wife of Pepsi CEOAlfred Steele, plugging the product to a bit of low-balling on the price of a 12-ounce bottle (for the same price as a six-ounce bottle of Coke) to singing TV commercials, Pepsi got a boost and sales soared. That led to expansion and in 1959 Blue

Rock moved to a new bottling plant in Sidney, with further building expansions in the late 1960s and early 1970s. After college and a brief teaching stint,

Olson joined Pepsi and in 1965 became a manager with Blue Rock. On the same day in 1966, with his future wife Marilyn, he signed their wedding license then signed paperwork to become Blue Rock’s owner. “As long as I have worked here John and

Marilyn have owned the business,” says son in law and vice president and general manager Eric Beenken. “There’s been a strong family feel to the company since then. The company has had a strong leader in John Olson for many years and he’s had a very good senior management team.” New products, like MountainDew,

appeared, and in the early 1980s Sidney was one of two places in the U.S. to serve as a test market for MountainDew. In 1970 the company formed Admiral

Beverage Corp. with six other Pepsi bottlers, then purchased theWildwood Beverage Company in northeasternNorthDakota and northeastern Montana. Blue Rock moved its central production center and general offices

ROADWISE | Luke and Lauren

to Sidney in 1978, and in 2006 Blue Rock Beverage and Blue RockDistributing merged to create the largest soft drink, wholesale beer and wine distributor in the eastern Montana and westernNorthDakota region. With a lot of new, thirsty customers thanks

to the oil boom, Blue Rock has continued to set high marks for sales of both Pepsi andDr. Pepper in recent years, and in 2011 and 2012 its Pepsi sales growth was tops in the country.

FAMILY AND GROWTH Blue Rock’s leadership and senior

management includes Olson and Marilyn, Karen Beenken, son and controller Randy Olson, and Eric Beenken, who married Karen two years before moving fromSioux Falls, N.D., to work for Blue Rock in 1993. The family’s fifth generation was represented when John Olson’s grandson Luke Beenken began working after school last year. Blue Rock leaders Olson, Karen and Eric

Beenken, TracyHagen and TimFeeley have all done stints as president of the Sidney Chamber of Commerce. To Stang, that bodes well for a continued, Blue Rock presence with the Motor Carriers of Montana; Blue Rock usually has someone present for any legislative issue, seminar or other association effort. “I think it’s good,” Stang says. “We have

some members that have been around a long time. They understand the value of being in an association.” It was just that kind of involvement

that placed John Olson inNew York City on September 11, 2001, when he was supposed to a attend a meeting of the Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. board at theWorld Trade Center.

ISSUE 5, 2014 | John and Marilyn at 100th But Olson was summoned away for a

conference call and wasn’t present when two airliners slammed into the Towers as part of the largest terror attack carried out in the United States. With the news outlets at full volume,

confusion everywhere and cell phone service nonexistent, it made for some tense hours for Olson’s family. “I was a little panicky because I was at a

Chamber meeting and I knewDad was going to be there,” Karen Beenken says. Olson was one of the fortunate ones,

though it took him hours to get through to his family and, with all commercial airlines grounded and rental cars at a premium, days to get home. “John was supposed to be in theWorld

Trade Center that day,” Eric Beenken says. “Turned out he wasn’t but he had a close call.” Eric Beenken grew up in Minneapolis and

met Karen in school at Concordia College in Moorehead, Minn.He studied education and administration, got his masters degree at Minnesota StateUniversity-Mankato and did not foresee he and Karen joining the family business. “I thought I wanted to work in higher

education,” Beenken says. “It was to prepare myself to be a higher education administrator.”


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