INDIANAPOLIS — You might remember drinking Choc-Ola as a kid, but wonder why it went away.
Dan Iaria, the owner of Rock-Cola Cafe on the east side of Indianapolis, had the same thought.
“I just thought of Choc-Ola and said, you know, ‘I wonder what happened to that’ and I’ve never seen it sold anywhere else. I wonder if I can find out where to get it and then I’ll sell it here.”
It was his way of trying to bring back customers into his cafe.
“We had several thousand jobs in this local eastside community that disappeared in a couple months,” Iaria told Inside Indiana Business. “All those potential clients of mine, they’re gone now; they will never come back, so I had to find a way to bring people from much further away.”
Iaria said he went to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website to see who owned the trademark for the beverage so he could contact them about selling their product.
“The trademark had just expired three days before,” said Iaria.
There was one problem — he didn’t have the secret recipe.
“So I was talking to my mom one day and she said, ‘Well, why don’t you call the inventor’s sons, the Normingtons’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t know those people.’ Well, she did. They used to play cards at my mom and dad’s house when we were growing up.”
Iaria met with one of the Normingtons, who gave him all of the information he needed. He has personally been making Choc-Ola in his cafe ever since, producing around 50 gallons every four or five days.
“I make the chocolate syrup, which is the base, and then I make the final concoction in the back kitchen and just keep filling up gallon jugs,” he said.
Iaria says the return of Choc-Ola has been a popular one at Rock-Cola Cafe. He says he’s had people drive from other states to pick up gallons.
Soon, Hoosiers and people in surrounding states will be able to purchase Choc-Ola, thanks to Iaria’s partnership with Dave Hunter, a 40-year veteran in the beverage industry, who’s helped develop a distribution strategy to expand the Choc-Ola brand this fall.
Hunter says they want to reintroduce the brand not in a can, but in a single-serve plastic bottle.
“We have completely redone the logos,” he said. “We’re coming up with two new flavors; we’re going to do a strawberries and cream flavor and we’re also going to do an orangesicle flavor like the old orange push-up.”
Hunter says they hope to be able to distribute through the Midwest in September or October, but he and Iaria believe they will have the ability to go nationwide in the next 2-3 years.