Coke, Pepsi battle it out on Ogden's 25th Street

Monday , August 04, 2014 - 8:57 PM

It’s “West Side Story” meets The Cola Wars.

Apparently, Historic 25th Street has long been Coca-Cola turf. The vast majority of restaurants there serve the product in the bright red cans, and rumor has it Coke spent a small fortune on the street — investing a couple hundred thousand dollars on advertising, signage, awnings and other improvements to the area.

Think of Coke as the Jets.

Last Saturday evening, Pepsi — the product in the bright blue cans — invaded that turf. Pepsi brought in the guy who’s gonna make this place your home, popular singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips, for a surprise concert that drew thousands to the street that Coke built.

Think of Pepsi as the Sharks.

And with no Lt. Schrank or Officer Krupke to stop it, I suppose the ensuing rumble was inevitable.

Steve Conlin is a former photographer at the Standard-Examiner. He used to own a business on 25th Street, and was even president of the Historic 25th Street Association a few years ago. Although not currently running a business there, he does live in a condo on the street.

All this is to say that Conlin loves Ogden, and he loves 25th Street. He refers to residing in the historic downtown district as “living the dream.”

But when he got up to walk his dog, Charlie, on Saturday morning, Conlin says there was something different about his street. Everywhere he looked was Pepsi blue. There were Pepsi banners on lamp posts, Pepsi park benches, Pepsi parasols, and a great big Pepsi stage at the southwest corner of the James V. Hansen Federal Building.

“Visually, they took over the street,” Conlin said.

And everywhere, signs proclaiming “Pepsi Loves Karen,” a reference to the owner of Karen’s Cafe on 25th Street.

Says Conlin: “As far as I know, every business down here, except Karen’s, serves Coke.”

But here’s where it gets interesting. As Conlin walked Charlie down Historic 25th Street, it became readily apparent that Coke wasn’t about to give up its hard-won territory without a fight. On Saturday morning, at the corner of 25th and Lincoln, Coke massed its forces for a counterattack. There was a huge Coke can on a flatbed trailer. A fleet of Coke trucks and other vehicles. And plenty of portable coolers for dispensing free samples of their beverage along the street.

“It looked like the L.A. police, staging for a Prop 8 demonstration,” Conlin said. “I was laughing my ass off. They started putting free Coke displays under all the Pepsi banners. I wandered the street and picked up, like, a case of Coke.”

OK, that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Conlin admits it was more like a six-pack, not a case, that may or may not have found its way into his backpack. But Conlin’s point is, Coke wasn’t about to go gentle into Pepsi’s summer concert night.

There are those who thought Coke’s attempt at upstaging the Pepsi concert was in bad taste, and they said so on Facebook and other social media.

“That’s tacky,” they said. “Not cool,” they said. “Let Pepsi have their night of fun,” they said.

Conlin sees their logic, but he thinks people don’t understand just how much Coke has invested in Historic 25th Street over the past few years.

Besides, the way I see it, it’s been a long time since anybody’s actually fought over downtown Ogden. So having a couple of massive multi-national corporations battling for our affections is some pretty heady stuff.

Plus which, throw in the estimated 700,000 folks expected for this month’s tours of the newly remodeled Ogden LDS Temple, and Junction City is definitely feeling the love this summer. Whether she’s dressed in Coke red, Pepsi blue or even Mormon white, downtown Ogden is finally feeling pretty.

Oh so pretty.

Contact Mark Saal at 801-625-4272, or msaal@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter at @Saalman. Like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SEMarkSaal.

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