WHITMAN —With a quick twist of the cap, the sound of a pop and fizz, 12-year-old Charles Giarratana of Whitman handed ice cold sodas to his customers who were feeling the unseasonable heat during the first weekend of Nessralla’s fall events.
Giarratana’s company, called Soda Pop Syndicate, is bottled and produced by Always Ask for Avery’s in New Britain, Conn.
He was in full swing — with nearly 100 bottles sold as people attended the Corn Maze on Saturday, Sept. 21 in Halifax.
Giarratana is familiar with all the details and history of Avery’s distribution company as History’s, one of his top favorite subjects.
Waiting on his customers and engaging them over an old-fashioned soda, several teens that were on their second servings, changed flavors, collectively sipped and mid sentence sighed, “Wow! This is really good.”
Giarrantana is proud of each accomplishment that has placed him in business. He recently finished the process to gain his hawkers and peddlers license and informed his customers he is Food Safe certified for allergen awareness, which is required by the Board of Health. He is also pleased with his decision to go with Avery’s.
A tour and experience at the plant is what provided the light bulb moment that inspired him to make his own brand of sodas.
“Well, it didn’t intrigue me…” he said of regular brand named sodas. “But, when I went to Avery’s it was like -magical. It’s amazing. You can see them make the soda –the process. It is like something out of Willy Wonka.”
His top favorites are Lime (a sour flavor) blue raspberry, birch beer and the ever-favorite Orange Toxic Slime. He tastes his products and describes the flavors to consumers to fit their palate.
Charles handles most of the Soda Pop Syndicate on his own, with guidance from his father John, who is also a business owner.
This writer purchased a bottle of the nonsensically, hilarious name Dog Drool, a perfectly full-flavored orange lime soda, that was inspired under the children’s younger generation marketing aptly named Totally Gross Soda.
The soda names offered solace and comic relief as Giarratana briefly articulated his personal reasons for creating a new life path at such a young age.
Following incidents of verbal abuse in fourth and fifth grades, which became physically violent in middle school, his pain was clearly visible as he recounted the experiences.
He said running his own business, also built in to part of his homeschooling curriculum, have made his life “a more positive place.”
“I got a lot of hate for having long hair,” he said, escribing homophobic and antisemitic taunts, based on his appearance.
“It was pretty horrible and it escalated into violence,” he said. “It was dumb” on my part to ask for help, he said, adding that he was later beat up by the classmates after going to his teacher to report the bullying and abuse.His parents opted for homeschooling.
W-H Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Szymaniak declined to comment on Charles’ claims, as he was not superintendent at that time.
Charles, meanwhile is motivated to succees, partially to show others how to move past the retaliation, the part of bullying he called a “horrible cycle.”
“My main demographic is marketing to kids because these sodas (names) they are funny as hell,” he laughed. “They are really cool and kids like that stuff. Even if the parents don’t want to get it for the kids … they will beg. It’s insane.”
He also said it is ironic that most of his customers are the same age as the youngsters who bullied him.
He has been met with kindness from new-found friends, customers and other local businesses that encourage him, keep him engaged in what events are coming up and he said he is especially appreciative of Bostonian Loft and Restoration Coffee in Whitman. Positive opportunities are putting this humbly, intellectual young man in a better place.
He reads books on business from Donald Trumps’ “The Art of the Deal,” “The Lemonade Stand,” a book for entrepreneurs and currently, “Crush It,” by Gary Vaynerchuk.
Recently he attended a business event in New York for young entrepreneurs with speakers who motivated and enthralled him.
He expressed how grateful he feels that there are people who are helping him achieve his goals. He was impressed with the kindness of John Nessralla and the opportunity to set up his cart at their annual farm’s corn maze event, he said.
Check out the Nessralla Farm Corn Maze’s weekend events to find Giarratana and his savory sodas.