A better way to make a livingPublished 4:19pm Friday, August 7, 2009
By MARCIA STEFFENS
Niles Daily Star
CASSOPOLIS – Car salesmen haven’t had an easy living, even when the economy was better.
People often come into a dealership feeling they are going to be cheated, according to Jim Tucker of Niles.
His new occupation he finds much better, behind a wooden stand selling homemade soda pop from wooden barrels.
Tucker, who grew up in Galien, was at the Cass County 4-H Fair this past week.
“People come her for fun,” he said.
He upsells most to a collectible tin mug, and promises $1 refills for the rest of your life.
Though the first 32 ounces of pop are $6, refills won’t be hard to find with a Bayou Billy wagon coming to most of the area fairs.
This weekend, another wagon will be at the Niles Riverfest, soon Tucker will be in Berrien Springs with his wagon at the Berrien County Youth Fair. Later in the month is the Buchanan Old Mill Fest and in October, the Four Flags Apple Festival.
Tucker first saw a Bayou Billy wagon at the Blueberry Festival in Plymouth, Ind. That event is so big, there were two places to buy the homemade pop.
He was impressed. He was also impressed when he called up Billy in Louisiana and he actually answered the phone.
A few years later, Tucker had purchased one of Billy’s original 11 wagons.
Billy began his selling pop career at the age of 10, at his mother’s softball game. He sold Coke for 10 cents a glass and made $23.10 the first night.
Eventually he branched out and expanded to a 160-seat restaurant until hurricane Andrew ended that dream in 1991.
Though from Louisiana, Billy got permanently tied to Michigan when he met his future bride at the Sam’s Club. Kaye was from Saginaw.
The mobile restaurant started in 1995 and expanded to soda pop wagons in 1998.
Billy used a family formula from back in the ’40s and came up with the idea of serving it in a tin cup and offering refills. The idea took off and now there are 50 Bayou Billy mobile units.
Before Kaye died of cancer in 2006, they would come up to Michigan in the summers, selling their products and getting to visit grandchildren.
Tucker’s wife Debbie also helps out when she isn’t doing accounting in Niles.
Their wagon which they have had for two years, offers a selection of seven homemade pops, including sugar free root beer, regular root beer, sarsaparilla, birch beer, cherry wine, orange zippy and creme soda.