Mass Street Soda manager discusses plans for expansion


Jackson Barton

Bottles of soda are highlighted by the afternoon sun at Mass Street Soda on 1330 Mass Street. 1,300 varieties of craft soda are displayed on their shelves.

To say Mass Street Soda is simply a novelty is an understatement. Mass Street Soda is part of a new wave of innovative and unique businesses to arrive on Massachusetts Street. Not only are these shops interesting, but they are also great additions to the collection of Downtown staples.

Late on a Tuesday night, I hastily typed out an email to the manager of the company asking for an interview at the shop the following morning. The manager, Matt Duval, was quick to reply. We met in the storefront office at the time I proposed the next day. As far as I know, no one buys soda at 10:30 in the morning.

“It all started with one of the owners named Matt (Baysinger), and he had a blog about cream soda, ‘cause he loves cream soda,” Duval said. “He had a huge following from that and people would just ship him bottles of cream sodas to try, and that started his love for soda.”

Even the most particular of soda shoppers will find something they like at Mass Street Soda.

— Jackson Barton

This passion for soda would grow into what is now Mass Street Soda and the new Kansas City Soda Company located in the Legends Shopping Center.

The shop in Lawrence has over 1,300 different varieties of soda. Sodas stocked range from big names like Coca-Cola and Dr. Pepper to more obscure bottlers, like a century old British dandelion and burdock soda known as Fentimans, which according to Duval, “Tastes like black licorice.” Even the most particular of soda shoppers will find something they like at Mass Street Soda. The hardest thing for me was choosing just one or two out of all of the possible options.

The soda industry has been under fire recently for being the main cause of obesity thanks to the high levels of sugar and high-fructose corn syrup. Duval informed me that not only is the soda industry growing on an independent level, but that these new bottlers are leaving high-fructose corn syrup out of their recipe, and are being much more health conscious.

“We try our hardest to not stock anything with high-fructose corn syrup,” Duval said. “It’s just the big guys like Coke and Pepsi that are pretty much the only ones that put that in their soda.”
With the current inventory being incredibly vast and varied, the high-fructose corn syrup embargo by Mass Street Soda went essentially unnoticed by me. The Coke, Pepsi, and other large soda brands that have been put on store shelves, are usually paired with a hard to find or classic bottle. A nice touch, and it helps the mainstream soda brands fit in with their more exclusive and flamboyant neighbors on the rack.

The physical business itself has been improved significantly since the shop’s first opening more than a year and a half ago. The interior has been given a somewhat rustic look with a wooden soda-bar and saloon-esque stools. It does not add to the location, but I wouldn’t expect anything more from a strictly soda retailer.

Another feature of the shop is the handy soda-chilling machine. If you are lucky they may have one ready for you in their freezer, but nine times out of ten, you’re going to have to wait a few minutes. In my experience, the wait wasn’t unreasonable, and the staff usually has a classic movie playing on the flatscreen to help pass the time.

Near the end of the interview, Duval told me that the company was going to experiment creating its own small brand of soda. After the meeting, I was treated to a Sprecher Cream Soda on the house. I guess I was right: nobody buys sodas at 10:30 in the morning after all.

Mass Street Soda is here to stay. With a simple, yet attractive, business model, this soda store will likely keep thirsty consumers coming back for many years to come.