Monday, April 21, 2008

Patriots' Day is for....Moxie?

Patriots' Day is a New England holiday. To my way of thinking, it's always been about the traditional 11:00 AM Sox' game and of course, the Boston Marathon.

As for the actual holiday portion, I've been on both sides of the equation. Some years (depending on my employer), I had to work. Other years (like this year), I officially had the day off.

Actully, today was a working holiday. I took the opportunity to use my "free" day to gather more Moxie material, taking a trip to Bedford (near Manchester). What's in Manchester? Well Cornucopia Bottling (a division of Coca-Cola of Northern New England, whose parent is Kirin Beer of Japan), of course, the Bedford-based owner of the Moxie brand.

[Frank and I having fun during a recent photo shoot (GGoodman photo)]

Moxie's roots are in New England and that's where one is most likely to find the unique drink, fueled by the curative qualities of gentian root. When Moxie was acquired by Atlanta-based Monarch Beverages Company, many hard-core Moxie fans felt the brand was languishing and becoming harder to find, even in New England. Cornucopia's acquistion of Moxie has been viewed favorably, thus far, by Moxie people.

I met with Justin Conroy, Cornucopia's brand manager, in order to interview him about Cornucopia's decision to bring Moxie back home, to New England.

After meeting with Conroy, I headed across town to meet with Merrill Lewis, president of the New England Moxie Congress. The NEMC is the "fan club" of Moxie and according to their website, they are "a loosely-knit band of Moxie zealots and fellow travelers who collect Moxie-related memorabilia, promote the drink's availability, get together for parades and clambakes, and some who actually drink the stuff."

Merrill's a knowledgeable guy and a gracious host. He answered my questions and then brought me into his own Moxie "shrine" of collectibles.

[This is the House of Moxie, but we just know it as Kennebec's (GGoodman photo)]

When one writes research-driven books, like I do, the tendency is to become one with the material. Over a period of months, you begin to see how your research fits together. I suppose you could say you even become a bit "protective" of your subject and the people you get close to, during the course of your research.

A week before my own photo shoot at Kennebec Fruit Company, aka Kennebec's (to the locals), or "The House of Moxie" to Moxie true-believers, Down East Magazine sent a couple of filmmakers to visit with Frank Anicetti, Moxie's most endearing spokesman and the star of the annual Moxie Festival, in July.

I'm not a fan of Down East and I thought that the filmmakers, particularly Russell Kaye, came across as a bit condescending to Anicetti. Maybe that's my own bias at work. View the video and let me know what you think. Either way, you 'gotta love Frank! Also, no one that I know refers to Frank's as "The Moxie Museum." Please get it right (see above)! Oh, and the "dusty" quality of the place is part of its charm.

I've always felt that Down East tends to represent a mythology of Maine that does the state a disservice. Certainly, you can find writers/filmmakers and others that capture Maine realistically, not the "Maine is for tourists" way that Down East and others regularly and dishonestly (in my opinion) portray the state.

I'm on an unrealistic timeline to get Moxietown to press, but I think people are going to enjoy the finished product.


Tom from Nanuet NY said...

Hello Jim, Tom here from NY in the lower hudson valley. I just watched the video with russel, I will agree that he was doing it in a rather tongue&cheek way. I've met Frank on a few occasions. When I go back up I'll remind myself to ask him how he felt about it. Speaking for myself, I'll say it would not be a bad idea for Moxie to have more exposure in relation to sales. The more money spent, the more money there is to invest in Moxie's continued production. Although, I'm sure you as well as alot of us know that WE would not want Moxie to all of a sudden become " trendy " Heaven Forbid That Happens !!!!! Any product can have a great cottage industry, do very well regionally and have a loyal following. It is then that care must be taken to insure The Moxie That We Love And Hold So Dear, Not Be Tampered With. the old saying goes " once the secret is out, it'll never be the same " I do have a Moxie bumper sticker and I do live in NY about 4.1/2hrs from S.Portland but most people pay it no mind. Maybe that's a Blessing In Disguise. I'm hesitant about spreading the word about Moxie. I feel it's only for the privledged few of us. It is an acquired taste, so that weeds out all the undesirables. I will also say that Franks store is not the Moxie museum, it's just a country store. Most city folk don't understand that. Thanks for having the comment section here. Hope you can post this for all of " US "

Russell Kaye said...

Jim, I appreciate that you're doing serious research about a soft drink but c'mon, that's a bit harsh to call me condescending? when? where? When I say that Moxie does taste pretty good. Or when I repeat what Franks says about the three sips. You have to admit Moxie is an acquired taste. And having said that, I'm pretty addicted to it now, having just polished off a twelve pack in a week.

I'm also not the one who nicknamed The Kennebec Fruit Company the Moxie Museum and I do say that it's an aka. Just google moxie museum.

Russell Kaye said...

words matter so why the moderation on your comments?

Jim said...

Last fall, when I began working on a book about growing up in Lisbon Falls, my intention wasn’t to write the definitive book on Moxie. Bowers and Potter had already beaten me to the punch. However, in trying to capture the town, through my own filter, Moxie has become a much bigger topic than I envisioned.

What began as one chapter, has now morphed into a book of its own, due out at Moxie (the festival). Actually, new ideas emerge, almost daily and I may need to revisit some of them later.

While I don’t claim to be the final authority on Frank and “The House of Moxie,” I knew Anicetti long before he became the town’s (and arguably, the drink’s) most popular spokesperson.

The difference here is simply, I’m trying to tell a story with a much bigger arc than can be represented by a 3-minute video.

I probably didn’t articulate my thoughts as well as I could have, but I think blogging is more about the immediate, versus the nuanced; a difference in tone, so to speak. That’s probably my biggest issue with the video—I think the tone is what I found objectionable, but your video is what it is.

Lastly, I have issues with how Maine is often portrayed, whether by national media types, Down East, or others. There are writers and others that have lodged that criticism, so I'm certainly not the first to take issue with certain types of portrayals.

As for comment moderation, I wish I didn’t have to use it, but in order to eliminate spam and other “garbage” inherent in our new forms of communication, I use it to weed out comments and things that don’t pertain to the posts. I think your concern was that I wouldn’t post your first comment, which is not the case. I fully support free expression, whether I always agree with it, or not.