Just after the end of World War II, in a small northern Wyoming town, two people started an independent bottling company that would become one of the largest in the country.
Nearly 70 years after the creation of Admiral Beverage Corporation in Worland, its founders are being inducted into the Wyoming Business Alliance's Hall of Fame.
“The company is an authentic Wyoming homegrown company,” said Wyoming Business Alliance President Bill Schilling. “It was hardworking entrepreneurs who took advantage of growth and opportunity and made a business successful.”
Founders Newell Sargent and Forrest Clay, along with five other Wyomingites, will be inducted into the Hall of Fame at a formal banquet Nov. 17. Others to be honored include William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Carbon County’s Curt and Marian Rochelle, Casper’s George Bryce, Crook County’s Jim Neiman and Park County’s Dave Reetz.
The bottling company was started in 1947 by Sargent and his wife, Mabel, according to the company’s website. It was called Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company. At the time, the one-production line operation bottled only two flavors, Pepsi-Cola and Nesbitt Orange.
The company went from two employees and two flavors in the 1940s to 1,600 employees and 48 flavors now, including Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper, leading Energy Brands, Coors Miller brands and more.
Today, Worland has the highest percentage of manufacturing jobs in any community in Wyoming, Schilling said.
“They became an extraordinary anchor to Worland and Washakie County and really for the Big Horn Basin,” Schilling said.
According to the website, Mabel Sargent died in 1960 while returning from deliveries in Cody. So, in 1961, Clay joined the company as a partner. Nine years later, the company began canning beverages.
The company soon expanded the franchise to Riverton, Powell, Casper, Cheyenne and Laramie. Since the 1970s, it has expanded to include beverage franchises in South Dakota, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Alaska, Northern Colorado and New Mexico.
“Newell was a consummate entrepreneur, as was Forrest clay,” Schilling said.
Today, Clay’s son, Kelly, runs the business, and the growth hasn’t stopped.
“He was working there before he was 12,” Schilling said. “He’s about 60 now, and he just works like heck.”
Kelly said he's always had the philosophy, "If you’re not growing, you're dying."
He said while the company's headquarters will always remain in Wyoming, he hopes to continue to expand the corporation.
One of the reasons Admiral's founders were chosen as Hall of Fame winners, Schilling said, is their corporate philanthropy. The Sargent Foundation has supported the Cathedral Home for Children in Laramie.
The company’s philanthropic efforts have also supported Pioneer Park and Washakie museum in Worland.
“Both Newell and then Forrest, they’ve been philanthropists on a statewide basis and in the local community,” Schilling said.
Kelly said it's about being a good corporate citizen.
He said the Hall of Fame honor is not about the company, but the people who built it.
"We think it’s a great honor," Kelly said.