YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – The new Chill-Can plant, which will be built in an east side neighborhood, is the idea of Youngstown native Mitchell Joseph.
Wednesday, Youngstown City Council approved spending $1.5 million to prepare the land on the east side where the plant will be built.
The plant will be located at the corner of N. Lane Avenue and Verona Street on the city’s lower east side, the same spot Star Bottling Company, which Joseph’s family owned, used to be from 1921 to 1970.
Joseph wants the land because that’s where his roots are.
“I graduated from Youngstown State in 1969 and I’ve been back four or five times since then,” he said.
The 69-year-old was born on Lane Avenue at a time of a thriving mix of ethnic groups.
His great-grandfather, James Joseph, founded the Star Bottling Company. By the time Joseph’s grandfather, Mike, was in charge, Star was distributing Dad’s Root Beer and Squirt.
“By the middle 40s, he was the largest independent private bottler of Dad’s Root Beer and Squirt east of Chicago.”
In one of the few trips he made to Youngstown after graduating from YSU, he had lunch with President Jim Tressel at the MVR. That lunch is what led to the decision to build a Chill-Can factory in the city.
“I started buying some property there discretely, quietly…nobody knew what we were doing,” Joseph said.
Then he started working with the Mahoning County Land Bank.
“For two and a half years, I’ve been coming in, meeting with the land bank, meeting with the city, telling the city what I wanted to do.”
Lane Avenue will be plowed under to make room for the new Chill-Can plant, displacing residents who were still living there.
Joseph says that was always one of his concerns.
“My big concern was that they got a fair value for a house that they probably could never sell and second of all, that somebody took some tender loving care to relocate these people.”
The Royal Oaks and Immaculate Conception Church will remain standing.
One of the things that sold Joseph on the 21-acre site was its access to freeways. Trucks can pull right onto the expressway, and then onto the turnpike or east on Interstate 80.
The Youngstown plant will build the cans for pretty much anyone in the eastern United States. There is also a plant in Irvine, California, where Joseph’s office is.
“The facility [in Irvine] is capable of making 28 million self-chilling cans a year. The Youngstown facility will be capable of making one billion cans, so that’s the difference.”
He says the manufacturing process is “100 percent safe.”
“Last year, if you’d have asked me that, it had probably been 90. There were still some twisting and turns in the manufacturing process, but it doesn’t exist anymore.”
Joseph says he’s already buying other pieces of property close to where the can plant will be located because he already has plans to expand.
As far as the product itself, he calls it “the Holy Grail of the beverage industry.” He says everyone in the industry has tried to make self-chilling cans, but only his company has done it.
“The self-chilling can started with an idea that I learned from a university out here, Cal Poly,” Joseph said. “It’s so unheard of. We had to do the military canteens for the Marines and we had to put five cans up in space with Senator John Glenn, but…it wasn’t an easy deal.”
The chilling unit on the can is activated by pushing a button at the bottom. Joseph says the one made in Youngstown will have a twist cap instead of a button.
An inner unit inside the can, which Joseph says has about 31 patents, chills the drink. The can has a built-in heat exchange unit. The liquid coolant is reclaimed carbon dioxide. Working together, the heat is removed and the liquid is cooled.
As far as the cost, Joseph referred to West Coast Chill, an energy drink also produced by his company.
“We launched it for $1.50 a can, more than a normal can, and we couldn’t keep them on the shelf.”
The Chill-Can is also recyclable.
The groundbreaking is expected sometime next month. Construction should be finished next summer, with the plant fully operational by 2018.