Raising a Mug on National Root Beer Float Day

August 6, 2019
Hot Shoppes exterior circa late 1930s
One of my family's Hot Shoppes locations from the late 1930s.

Happy National Root Beer Float Day!

It’s no secret I love root beer. I love ice cream, too.

They taste good together and they’re so closely tied to Marriott International’s history.

My parents started their company as an A&W Root Beer stand in Washington, D.C., in 1927, just before the Great Depression.

Even after the stock market collapsed in 1929, my parents’ three eateries – they changed the name to Hot Shoppes – thrived. People wanted that ice cold 5 cent mug of root beer.

The crystal mugs they used, it turns out, were a challenge to clean. Back then, the District of Columbia required restaurant glasses to be sterilized for five minutes in boiling water. But if you ever soak glasses in boiling water and then chill them, you’ll notice something. They crack.

Most states were allowing restaurants to use more modern sanitation methods.

My dad and his partner at the time, Hugh Colton, successfully worked to change the D.C. law, speaking at health department hearings, until practical sterilization was allowed.

Ice cream is another big part of company lore. Milk shakes and other desserts were staples of the Hot Shoppes menu. And after World War II, we opened the Pantry House, a market for take-out food. Our ice cream, which we made from scratch, was a big seller.

Nowadays, I’m eating healthier. I’ve cut back on ice cream and I prefer diet root beer.

But today, in honor of National Root Beer Float Day, I will enjoy a cold mug.

I’m Bill Marriott. Thanks for helping me to keep Marriott on the Move.

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