Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Salisbury Post
Maybe those Yankees really are hoarding Cheerwine.
When you think of Bloomingdale’s in New York, you don’t necessarily think of the Salisbury-born Cheerwine soft drink.
That’s going to change, at least next week.
On Valentine’s Day, the Bloomingdale’s flagship store in New York, at Lexington Avenue and 59th Street, will have the grand opening for a new floor dedicated to denim jeans and comfortable footwear. The floor’s focus is on men’s denim and sneakers.
How does Cheerwine fit in?
Servers provided by Bloomingdale’s will be offering free Cheerwine (and Diet Cheerwine) samples from 5-8 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 14) and 1-4 p.m. Saturday (Feb. 16). There will be music, hourly Cheerwine raffles and the airing of the University of North Carolina-Virginia Tech basketball game Feb. 16.
The soft drink will be part of in-store and street-level window displays. Cheerwine’s own people also will be on hand to meet shoppers, tell the Cherry-flavored drink’s story and lend some Southern charm to the grand opening.
Tom Barbitta, vice president of marketing for Cheerwine in Salisbury, says Bloomingdale’s was looking for brands that reinforced relaxation, kicking back and enjoying life, “and Cheerwine’s a natural fit for that.”
Cheerwine also has its long-standing family connection, a uniqueness, authenticity and Southern values and roots that seem to strike a chord with people everywhere, Barbitta says.
“We are not a ubiquitous brand, but people have heard about Cheerwine,” Barbitta says. Word about the brand is spreading “in a real, real positive way,” he adds.
Cheerwine’s being mentioned in a recent edition of In Style fashion magazine apparently caught the eye of Bloomingdale’s personnel.
Barbitta also credits all the press connected to Cheerwine’s 90th anniversary last year and the advertising campaign that suggested that Yankees were coming South to collect great amounts of Cheerwine and taking the soft drink back with them.
Cheerwine’s current distribution does not extend north of the Warrenton area of Virginia.
Cheerwine already has shipped two pallets of the soft drink to Bloomingdale’s for the Valentine’s Day (and Feb. 16) events scheduled for the new denim floor.
Barbitta, Brittany Solomon, Jenna Jones and Jim Leland will be going to New York. The women already are making signs and plan to be on Rockefeller Plaza Thursday morning to try and gain the attention of Today show host Al Roker.
On occasion in New York, the Cheerwine team also will be wearing T-shirts that say “Cheerwine loves y’all” on the front and “Would you like a hug?” on the back and looking for ways to spread the word.
Barbitta says Leland will be using the trip as an opportunity to meet with New York distributors and introduce the Cheerwine brand to them. Kits also are going out to media in the New York area who have been identified as having Southern connections.
Who knows, this might be a breakout event for Cheerwine.
“We believe this is Cheerwine’s time,” Barbitta said.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263 or mwineka@salisburypost.com.

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