The History of the Utt Juice Company

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

The Utt Juice Co. plant, which ran along the west side of Prospect between Main and Third streets, produced 7 million gallons of juice during the 50 years it was in operation.

C. E. Utt, who developed the San Joaquin Fruit Co. along with Sherman Stevens and James Irvine, experimented with a number of agricultural crops, citrus, peanuts, chili peppers and grapes during his lifetime, but his involvement with grapes continued for many years.

It all began when he leased property on Lemon Heights from the Irvine Co. in 1915 and planted two acres of Concord grapes. By 1918 when the vines came into production, he had more grapes than he could find a market for. His solution was to start making grape juice at home, using the back porch for his kitchen. When he had more juice than his family could consume, he bottled the excess and started giving it to his friends.

People raved about the drink and told him he should bottle it commercially. Soon he was marketing a drink labeled Home Made Grape Juice. On Sept. 9, 1918, he founded a new enterprise, which he called the Utt Juice Co. When it outgrew his back porch, he moved to a Victorian-Italianate building on the northwest corner of Main and Prospect. The building, which he had owned since 1907, had been the home of Sauers and Berkquist grocery. Set up with boilers, vats, presses and bottling equipment , it became the Utt Juice Co. Sheds and additional buildings were added as the company grew.

Arcy Schellhous, a young man of 27, bought a quarter interest in the business in 1922 and took over the management, giving Utt more time for his duties as president of the San Joaquin Fruit Co., president of the First National Bank of Tustin and owner of Tustin Water Works. They adopted the brand name of Queen Isabella and added pomegranate, rhubarb and guava juice to their inventory. Schellhous bought out Utt in 1931 although the company continued to use the Utt name.

Production reached a peak of 200,000 gallons of juice in 1965. The company was ahead of its time in producing juices that could be labeled 100% Pure, No Sugar Added. Queen Isabella jams and jellies were added to the product mix as well as boysenberry products that carried the Knott label. However, grapes and other fruits produced locally became increasingly hard to find and Schellhous was forced to buy fruit from other parts of California.

Utt died in 1951, but Schellhous continued to run the company until he died in an automobile accident in 1970. Jack Hall who had joined the company in 1946 as office manager became president and served until 1973 when a scarcity of fruit and increasing competition forced the company to close. It was calculated that Utt Juice Co. had produced 7 million gallons of juice in 50 years.

Cleared of equipment, the building stood empty until a few years ago when building began on the recently completed Prospect Village complex.

 

 

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