A new museum and warehouse facility was built specifically for the collection and opened to the public in 2005. Sadly, Bill passed away only two years later. In 2011 the museum closed its doors. and the divestiture of the museum holdings at auction signaled the end of a collecting era.
I first met Bill and Jan Schmidt in the summer of 1989 when we first toured the museum at the bottling plant. Through the years my wife and I, and our two children, visited the museum many, many times. Over that time we became acquainted with Mr. and Mrs. Schmidt, and Roy Minagawa - the museum's curator. Bill, Jan, Roy, and the entire museum staff, always treated us with a great deal of courtesy and respect. I will always treasure the fond memories of those visits and friendships.
Bill and his wife Jan represented the third generation of Schmidt Coca-Cola Bottlers. The Schmidts were a Coca-Cola family. Bill's grandfather Fred Schmidt began bottling in Louisville in 1901, and his father Luke Schmidt acquired the Elizabethtown territory in 1920 and 35 years later his son Bill assumed control.
Bill and Jan began collecting seriously in 1972, and soon had enough memorabilia to fill a warehouse. They opened their first museum on the second floor of the bottling plant in 1977. It entertained over one million visitors during its 25 year existence, before it was eventually moved to its final destination.
This photo was taken in September 2006 when we loaned a Pemberton's French Wine Coca bottle to the museum. Sadly, Mr. Schmidt passed away less than a year later. (Shown left to right; me, Bill Schmidt, Roy Minagawa)