Wheeler & Co became one of the largest soft drinks producers in Belfast.
Walter James Wheeler (1830 – 1890) and Dr Henry Whitaker (1833 – 1912) acquired a chemist’s business at 38 Apothecaries Hall, opposite Bridge Street, Belfast, in 1858. Whitaker had previously served as an apprentice pharmacist with Grattan & Co.
Wheeler & Whitaker acquired the lease to a factory on Murphy Street, Belfast, which had access to the Cromac springs, in 1864.
Wheeler & Whitaker was the first Belfast soft drink manufacturer to utilise the Cromac springs, and it was to prove well-suited for the production of carbonated drinks due to its purity and mineral content.
Wheeler & Whitaker was ranked as one of the “Big Five” producers of soft drinks in Belfast by 1871. An extensive export trade had been developed by 1877.
Wheeler & Whitaker was subject to a break-up in 1882. Dr Whitaker took control of the chemists’s business, and Wheeler took control of the soft drinks business.
W J Wheeler died in 1890 and left an estate of £16,932. He was remembered as a kindly man.
Frederick Wheeler (1862 – 1939) succeeded his father as managing director of Wheeler & Co. A driven and determined man, the business expanded substantially under his direction.
Wheeler converted the firm into a private limited company, with capital of £20,000. He led a focus on the export trade.
The First World War was to have a negative impact upon Belfast soft drink producers. Businesses struggled to import ingredients, and to export produce.
The Republic of Ireland gained independence in 1919, and erected tariffs against imported British goods.
Norman Walter Frederick Wheeler (born 1892), son of Frederick Wheeler, placed the business into voluntary liquidation in 1923.
Wheeler & Co was acquired by George A Davison. He was declared bankrupt in 1927.
Wheeler & Co was still in business as late as 1942.