- An 83 Year Legacy -
Since 1937, Carl’s Bar Supply has and will always be about providing exceptional service to its customers while offering the highest quality products available at fair prices.
We started with fresh lemons, limes and a flatbed truck, yes, but Carl’s longevity and success is rooted in more than just excellent ingredients. Our founder, Carl Strattman, and his original team established true partnerships with his customers and built a legacy across the service industry that our family still prioritizes to this day. Not only do our customers receive the same exact product that we serve in our homes, they are the recipients of our unrelenting desire to surpass all service expectations. Forget the extra mile…we run marathons for our customers. Not only do we stock our customers’ shelves with our delectable mixes, we don’t tie up their cash in excess inventory. We've even been known to wash windows if it helps. In short, we know what our customers need, when they need it, and yes, we BRING IT.
There is a lot of talk about Stop and Drop deliveries; Carl’s can do it like the big guys but why? We don’t compare ourselves to other providers—we just adhere to our original ideals. Quality Products & Exceptional Service at a Fair Price. It’s that simple. We also like our customers and connecting with them. Some say this is a bit old fashioned. We agree and we wouldn't have it any other way.
- The Original Carl -
The entrepreneurial spirit and spark that Carl Strattman demonstrated when starting the company ignited a legacy that still stands to this day. In 1936, Carl began selling lemons and limes off the back of his pick-up truck and delivered them to local bars and restaurants in the Normal Heights and Old Town areas of San Diego. Some of his first customers included Ramona’s Spanish Kitchen owned by the Peters family (renamed La Piñata in 1962) who were with Carl’s until they closed doors in 2018. Quatros Milpas was another early adapter in Barrio Logan. The ever thriving Old Town Mexican Café was also one of the earliest customers.
After a few years, Carl thought mixing his lemons and limes together in a Sweet and Sour could help out his customers. He started bottling in his garage by himself, and would eventually purchase a bottling machine on Park Boulevard to expand supply and meet local demand. Carl’s intuition was spot on and just like that, Carl’s Sweet & Sour was born. As soon as the word was out about the quality product he had created sales took off and folks started asking for additional mixers. The second product he released would take his customers to paradise… welcome Carl’s Pina Colada.
Carl Strattman and Carl's Bar Operations Circa 1940, San Diego CA.
With the addition of more mixes Carl’s became regular name in the industry and just like today, was known for its high-quality products and personalized customer service.
In 1963, Carl passed the torch to his stepson, Leith MacIver, who purchased the business and carried it through the swinging 60s and 70s ,expanding Carl’s offerings throughout the years. Leith branched out and brought in soda systems, syrups and fountain drinks.
In 1983, Leith sold the business to his stepson. Tony Sanfilippo who was running a carbonics company. Things got fizzy. Yep, Tony blended his carbonics expertise with the bar supply side of things when he took over the helm. Business really bubbled up! Ultimately, however, Tony wanted to re-align the main activity of Carl’s to its original design—bar mixes and supplies and sold off the carbonics portion. He really was more of an organic guy and preferred the fruit more than the fizz.
The 21st Century was ushered in by the Sanfilippo era. Tony sold the business to his son, Jerry Sanfilippo in 2011. Over the last decade, Carl’s cadre of mixes has multiplied and is most recently, getting skinny. Jerry has strengthened his relationships with San Diego’s original bars and restaurants while developing new ones. Jerry continues to offer Carl’s unmatched service and support which founded the company more than eight decades ago.
Jerry’s focus on meeting his customer’s needs was a major driver in upping his game and offering items on-line. His restaurant clients can order in the middle of the night while drinking warm milk and counting sheep. Moreover, the growing group of folks with home bars and individual consumers now have easy access to purchase small (1 bottle) or large quantities (cases) at the same prices. With that said, however, we still dig our customers and are finding new ways to connect because we relish the personal touch. While eighty years has radicalized the business landscape, we aren’t all that radical, just consistent.
A final note: a life-long surfer and mountain man, Jerry respects Carl’s role in the world and offers earth safe and organic items when available and supports local suppliers as often as possible.