The Hillsdale Bottling Works
In its earliest days the building at 66 North Street was a colorful and active bawdy house. The heyday of railroads in Hillsdale brought a steady clientele to gawk at the beautiful ladies and to participate in the racy activities that occurred there. Prohibition suppressed this type of venture, and the building entered the more staid business of the production of bottles.
Edward Jackson incorporated the Hillsdale Bottling Works in 1919 in the gutted and reconfigured building at 66 North Street. Between then and 1934 when Bill Nott bought it—for cash in the Depression—Ford Foote, then president of the Hillsdale County Bank, owned it. Bill Nott’s entry into the business world included another venture in 1934 when he married Marian Perkins. She became his vice president in the business and also presented him with two children, Fred and Helen.
Prior to owning his own business, Bill had been working for his older brother’s dairy. Because of the Depression many people were unable to pay their milk bills, so Bill began accepting diamonds as payment and in turn paying the bill from his salary. He kept these unmounted stones knotted in the corner of his handkerchief. On the very day that President Franklin Roosevelt declared a Bank Holiday (really a closing) in March of 1933, Bill walked into a jewelry store in Detroit, unraveled his unorthodox but very valuable pack, negotiated for alternative stones and a mounting and designed the rings that Marian wore the rest of her life.
The Hillsdale Bottling Works manufactured ice cream and all kinds and flavors of soft drinks, including Coca-Cola, for which it held a franchise. Several trucks distributed its products over the surrounding counties. The business increased five hundred percent during 1935, an early signal that the worst of the Depression was in the past.
Bill changed the ice cream name from "Bon Ton" to "Verifine." After WW II, with its polio scare, Bill converted the old family '41 Ford convertible into an ice cream truck to sell Clown ice cream bars around town to the children who were restricted to their homes during the summer for health reasons.
Bill also used the ice cream business to give his children Fred and Helen the chance to be independent. He gave them an ice cream stand to take to the various summer county fairs in Michigan so they could pay for their own college educations.
While Marian taught at Mauck School in the Hillsdale Community Schools, Bill ran the Hillsdale Bottling Works for about 25 years. Some of the bottles made in the plant, including a nifty seltzer bottle, now reside at the Will Carlton Poorhouse, along with a milk can and wooden crates.
JoAnne P. Miller (with help from the articles on the Nott family in 150 Years in the Hills and Dales written by Marian Nott and Fred Nott, and from a delightful conversation with Fred Nott)