A Coke & A Smile

The fuel tanks at McDaniel’s General Merchandise on Hwy. 49 in McHenry have become a topic of conversation around the country.

Head south on Hwy. 49 until you see the giant Coke can and take a right.

A desire to both dress up and monetize a trio of rather unsightly fuel tanks has led to a new landmark in Stone County and what is believed to be the only advertisement of its kind in the nation.

Patti Saia and Jimmy Ragsdale wanted to do something different and, at the same time, make their business, McDaniel’s General Merchandise, stand out.

Saia and Ragsdale, who represent the third and fourth generation of their family to own and operate the business, certainly found a way to do just that.

“Fuel tanks are not attractive to begin with,” Saia said. “Since we remodeled the outside of the store in 2011, I had wondered, ‘How can we monetize these tanks,’ and Jimmy and I both gave it a lot of thought.

“After we remodeled the inside of the store a few years later, we were told by Coca-Cola that our sales were really going up and I thought, ‘Coke can,’ and this is the result.”

Saia said she wondered how cool it would be to have the largest Coke can in the state, maybe the nation, as a landmark for the business and pitched the idea to Richard Bowman, the area manager for Coca-Cola.

Bowman took the idea and ran with it.

“It’s impactful and it’s exciting,” Bowman said of what is essentially a non-traditional billboard. “As far as I’m aware, nobody has seen anything like it anywhere else in the country.”

He mentioned the attention the tanks have received on social media.

“People from all over the country are saying they want to come and see it,” he said.

It was not an easy sell to get his company to agree to the project.

“It took a couple of years to convince them to invest in it,” he said. “I just wouldn’t give up. Sometimes you just have to wait for budgets to be right.”

With Coke on board, Monster Energy Drinks and Dr. Pepper wanted to get in on the idea and the result is a striking visual from Hwy. 49, southbound or northbound.

“It has really blown up in the Coke world,” Saia said. “And, we get lots of comments on them.”

Bowman, a Stone County resident, sees the cans as another reason to take pride in the county, known officially as, “Mississippi’s Mural County.”

“I checked the Mississippi Department of Transportation website and there’s like, 120,000 people that travel that road, either weekly or monthly, I can’t remember which,” he said. “So, they’re seen by a lot of people.”

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