The Meridian Coca-Cola Bottling company will fill its last bottle in June. The company, according to its president and chairman of the board, Hardy Graham, will close the production portion of its operation during the latter part of the month, probably during the week of the 16th.

The company will not shut down. It will continue to distribute Coke and other Coke products throughout the current territory. The Meridian plant opened in 1902.

‘‘It’s just not financially possible to run a small production line anymore,’’ Graham said Wednesday. ‘‘We were producing roughly a third of our volume and buying the other two-thirds from other sources.’’

"Now," he added, "instead of buying two-thirds of our soft drinks from other sources we'll be buying 100 percent of our soft drinks from other sources."

The cans will be brought in from Clinton, while, Graham said, bottles will likely be shipped from either Mobile or Birmingham in Alabama.

10 employees will be laid off as result of the change. Those 10, Graham said, were given a choice between accepting a severance package or transferring to other jobs within the operation. Three or four of those employees, he said, chose to remain with the company.

‘‘We’re planning on being around for a long time,’’ said Graham. ‘‘I’m third generation; my son is fourth generation and his kids want to be fifth generation in the businesses. It’s just a change in sourcing, but not a change in distribution.’’

"It's an emotional deal to shut it down," he added, "but it's just not practical to open it anymore."

Graham explained that, in the past, a Coca-Cola bottler had two functions — production and distribution. Over the years, an increased variety of products has pushed a gradual trend toward large production centers, resulting in the close of smaller ones.

The Meridian Coca-Cola bottling plant, Graham said, is the last one in Mississippi to shut down its production line.

In April, Coca-Cola shut down the production line in Hattiesburg and changed that plant over to distribution. The Hattiesburg plant had been in operation since 1906.

Graham said the company plans to sell its production equipment once the production line is shut down, freeing up the production area for warehouse space.

"This change will have no impact at all on the market," he said, "This is basically just a different purchasing arrangement."

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