Riley Soda Company is struggling, but it’s a great problem to have. “We’re growing faster than I can handle,” said founder Steven Riley. “Way faster than I ever expected. It’s hard for me to keep up with production.”
Especially for a guy who still has a regular job as a jeweler at Nick T. Arnold’s. That’s one of the main reasons that Riley Soda has decided to open a soda shop inside Nona’s Market. “Moving in here made it easier because we automatically met all the health codes and regulations, so then we were able to get our manufacture license and permit,” Steven said.
Becoming a permanent tenant at Nona’s also felt like familiar territory. Nona’s was the first place to sell Riley’s Soda when it was created just months ago.
The first sample run of 14 bottles was given away to friends and family this past summer. Everybody loved them! Based on that little run for market testing, the first batch Steven made was 24 bottles of blackberry soda.
It was love at first taste for Maria Kelly, owner of Nona’s, who agreed to sell Riley’s Soda in her downtown market. The first 24 bottles sold out the first day. The next day, Steven brought in more bottles and they sold out again. Next day, same thing.
Since then, life has been a whirlwind of activity for Steven. Riley Soda can now be found in a growing list of places around town. It’s even on tap at Lure.
As for inspiration, Steven says he was influenced by the drive to eventually leave a legacy that his son could one day continue. “That’s why I attached my family name to it,” Riley explained. “I didn’t want my son to have to go through the physical kinds of jobs that I did,” Steven said, referring to his earlier job at a body shop. “I want this to be a heritage thing that I can pass down.”
A self proclaimed “soda fanatic,” it was Steven’s vision from the start to produce soda that is all natural so it’s healthier to consume. “Every bit of water that goes into any of my products is reverse osmosis. It’s the purest water you can get. The sugar is pure cane sugar. It’s as clean as you can get,” Riley explained.
Keeping things local is also a trademark for Riley Soda, who prides themselves in being a Kentucky Proud company. Everything that goes into their products, if at all possible, is Kentucky Proud as well. The cream soda, for example, is made with real cream from a dairy in Russellville.
Along with cream soda, cola and root beer are the usual flavors.
It all started with blackberry, though.
“I remember picking blackberries as a child and we would sell them by the gallon to get money to go the drive in movie when we were kids,” Steven recalled. Which made blackberry an obvious choice when choosing the initial flavor. Plus, it was different enough to grab people’s attention.
It worked. It’s still the most requested.
Other flavors are inspired by whatever is in season. They will launch a pumpkin spice soda at the ribbon cutting for the Chamber of Commerce on October 29th.
The soft opening should be in the next couple of weeks. “From there, we’re going to keep building a little at a time. The first step will be having the sodas on tap. Next we’ll add syrups, and then floats,” Steven said. He also hopes to have a line of candy so it really looks like a 50’s downtown soda fountain.
Their goal is to be totally set up for “shop small” Saturday, which is November 28th, in plenty of time for the Holiday shopping season.
To see the work in progress, stop by Nona’s Downtown Market at 126 West 2nd Street. If you’re lucky enough to find a bottle on the shelves, you can have a taste. Wait a couple weeks and you can have a fresh bottle poured from the tap. In the meantime, follow them on Facebook.