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community wats 040717

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Community WATSONVILLE city of J ohn Martinelli knows his last name rings a bell with people. S. Martinelli & Co. is a household in the U.S., with countless families buying its trademark sparkling ciders for cel- ebrations and holidays. But he also knows most people don't realize the company was founded and has stayed in Wat- sonville for nearly 150 years. The headquar- ters, production and much of the operations are within a several mile of each other in Watsonville, just off Riverside Drive near Highway 1. The company is set to mark its 150th anniver- sary in 2018 and with it a long history of devel- opment. The company recently opened a tast- ing room and store on site, allowing customers to sample the trade- mark sparkling cider as well as other flavors not commonly found. Inside the room is also a visual history of the company with original equipment and photos. Founded in 1868, the company started off as a producer of hard cider. The founder, Ste- phen Martinelli, started the company after ar- riving from Switzerland and settling in the area. Originally looking to jump into the gold rush of California, Martinelli arrived too late. At the time, the area was ripe with apple orchards, setting up the founding of S. Martinelli & Co. Lindsay Huysentruyt, archivist and historian for the company, said the company found moderate local suc- cess as a hard cider company. That is until prohibition rolled through the country in the 1920s, threatening the company's trade- mark beverage and business. While the company also produced a nonalcoholic juice, the company's leaders had to figure out how to give it a longer shelf life by pasteurizing it. "I'm not positive how easy it was," Huysentruyt said. "They were looking at potentially losing their business, like a lot of breweries at the time." All that set into mo- tion the identity and product the company would be famous for in the decades to come. Company executives pushed the pasteurized, nonalcoholic cider and eventually became a household name. Even when prohibi- tion was lifted in 1933 and the hard cider was brought back, the pasteurized produced remained the most popular. So much so that the company chose to stop making it in 1978. In the company's an- nual report, there was a tinge of emotion from the company's presi- dent about the product sunsetting, Huysentruyt said. But since then the company has developed several other products outside of their trade- mark drink. That is in part thanks to the current Martinelli in charge, John Martinelli. As with many storied companies led by the descendants of found- ers, the Martinelli family has a legacy of naming sons after the founder Stephen. While John Martinelli's first name is Stephen, his family opted to call him John from an early age out of conve- nience. As he explains it, it was easier since his grandfather — Stephen Martinelli — and his father — also Stephen Martinelli — were always around. John Martinelli chuckles slightly about the inconvenience. "I passed the curse onto my son, who is Ste- phen Philip Martinelli," he said. "It's forever challenging to fill out forms that want first name, middle initial." More than lay down roots, the company has spread its branches out into the community. Martinelli said the com- pany employs roughly 300 people in the area and its executives have served on various boards over the years. He said his four children often quote him Spiderman's super- hero motto: With great power comes great responsibility. "We could've moved to Washington years ago. That would've been the easy thing to do because that's where a lot of the fruit's being grown right now," he said. But Martinelli is com- mitted to keeping the company's roots in the Pajaro Valley. The com- pany is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan that will anchor it to the community, he said. Most of the family is still in the area and Martinelli wants to keep it that way. "It's home. That's the first thing I think of," he said. By Calvin Men photos DAY CoYRo – sAntA CRuz sentinel Apple Company Roots Run Deep Come Celebrate Easter on the Farm Easter Eggs Hunts & Fun All Day! April 8th | 11am-3pm Agricultural History Project At The Santa Cruz County Farigrounds www.aghistoryproject.org

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