100 years

in the making

Watch the history of Venetian Ginger Ale, and see how German immigrant Michael C. Dorn gave birth to Vermont's very own premium ginger ale.

Venetian Beverages, LLC bottles premium all-natural sodas and non-alcoholic beverages to help foodies, bartenders, specialty food stores and local restaurants enjoy our all-natural, preservative-free, fair trade, mixers, and non-alcoholic bottled, soda fountain and canned beverages. That’s a mouth full! Whew. But, it’s true.

 

Our mission is to be a leading, recognized drink brand offering novel flavors sold throughout the Northeast, and bring joy to our customer's lives through our products. We market the Venetian brand as a premium luxury adventure brand that delivers excitement and encourages passion through entertainment and great tastes.

A Renegade History

Not many soda makers were bootleggers, but hey, ginger ale makes a sweet mixer for the hard stuff. During Prohibition, the Dorn family allegedly used their Venetian soda operation as a front for whiskey runs out of Canada for a little extra on the side.

 

With Vermont sharing a border with Quebec, and Burlington being the first “big” city, Pine Street made for the perfect factory location and the ideal first stop before heading down to Boston, Atlantic City, and New York City. These renegades knew how to throw a good party and hosted some of the largest underground gatherings at the time, attracting notorious names from the big cities.

 

Some would even travel to Vermont to get in on the small-town music scene as a respite from the hustle and bustle of city living. Who knows, maybe Al Capone himself enjoyed Venetian Ginger Ale.

Michael Charles Dorn

1st President M. & F.C. Dorn Bottling Co.

Born in 1871, the 12-year-old Michael C. Dorn, a Jewish immigrant from Germany (possibly Switzerland), came to Pittsburgh, Pa. with an uncle. Ten years later, he came to Burlington, Vermont, where he opened a restaurant in the Strong Theatre building on Main street. There grandpa Dorn was a successful restauranteur for 15 years. During that time, he experimented with carbonated beverages. One of those beverages would later become the famous Venetian Ginger Ale. 

He closed his restaurant to focus on soda making, and in 1917 opened a carbonated beverage manufacturing plant on Pine Street in Burlington. 

Michael C. Dorn had three sons, Michael Jr., Frank, and Paul.

1917 - 1934

Frank Charles Dorn

2nd President M. & F.C. Dorn Bottling Co.

Said to have the smell of cigars and church mints, Frank was a gruff to-the-point businessman. Born in 1897, the second oldest son, and was the most ambitious, and best dressed of the three brothers. After the unexpected death of his father in 1934, Frank took command of the bottling facility and distribution network. He also changed the direction of the company. 

When the US entered WWII, it brought manufacturing consolidation across many industries and was about the time when the Venetian Ginger Ale story ends. The Dorn's were faced with bottling better-known brands or with closing their doors. 
 
Frank decided to pursue co-packing and distributing big-name soda and national beer. Ultimately, he shuttered the family label.


Frank was the grand exalted ruler of the Burlington Lodge of Elks, a member of the Burlington Country Club, and the Chamber of Commerce, and used his business savvy to bring M. & F. C. Dorn Bottling Co. through many years of expansion and business. Even though the family label was no longer in production, the family continued to be involved with bottling, sales, and distribution of carbonated beverages. 
 
Frank died suddenly in 1950 when he was in a car crash on his way to Florida with some friends. 

1934 - 1950

Paul Clement Dorn

3rd President M. & F.C. Dorn Bottling Co.

An avid golfer and president of the Burlington Country Club, Paul was born in 1902 and the youngest son of Michael C. Dorn. Paul was also the last Dorn to run the business. Like his brother Frank, he was ambitious and played a vital role in the Burlington, Vermont community. Paul had an active civic and political life. He served as a representative in the Vermont legislature, was the former airport commissioner, and even ran for Burlington mayor in 1959. The Venetian label was a distant memory, and Paul continued to grow the bottling facility as well as the soda and beer distributing network. 

He was a strict man but had a kind heart. Allegedly, Paul used to gather up as many of the neighborhood children he could fit in his car and took them all to the movies every so often.
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He passed away in 1968 after complications from surgery. 

1950 - 1968

S. Lee Kilburn

4th President M. & F.C. Dorn Bottling Co.

S. Lee Kilburn worked in the accounting department as a self-proclaimed 
"bean counter" at the bottling plant on Pine Street, where he had eyes for Paul Dorn's daughter Joanne. They were married in 1956, and later after Paul Dorn's death, S. Lee Kilburn became the president of M. & F. C. Dorn Bottling Co.

Lee and Joanne moved the bottling facility out of the Pine Street location and built a new line, and warehouse in Colchester. 
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The family sold the co-packing bottling facility and distribution network in the '80s, and the long-forgotten Venetian brand was lost to time, packaged away in a basement.

1968 - 1985

Justin Lee Bunnell

1st President Venetian Beverages, LLC

Justin is the grandson of Lee Kilburn, and the great-great-grandson of Michael C. Dorn, Sr. It's been more than 30-years since the name M. & F. C. Dorn Co. has been mentioned, and more than 100-years since the bottling of the first Venetian Ginger Ale. 

Justin owns and operates RetroMotion Creative, a digital marketing firm in Burlington, Vermont, and has a passion for Vermont craft food and beverages. 

He grew up hearing legends of the Dorn brothers and their alleged ties to bootlegging. Now, Justin reimagined Michael C. Dorn's original Venetian Beverages with the hopes and ambition of restoring the glory of a once-thriving beverage empire, but now with a new twist.

2017 - 

Family Album

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