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Ask a Seltzer Man

Third-generation seltzermonger Walter Backerman on the dying art of H2O delivery.

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Illustration by Sam Kerr  

With bottled seltzer at every corner store, why do people still call you?
Taste. The other day, I bought a seltzer at Walmart, brought it home, drank it, and spilled it out. I tasted the plastic! I use beautiful glass bottles with metal caps, never plastic. My seltzer is five times more expensive—it’s $35 for a case of ten—but people are willing to pay for what they want.

They must feel some loyalty too.
People like to support the little man. Then there’s this thing called nostalgia. I’m going to be 58, and customers remember the day I was born because my father delivered to them. The problem is, when people die you have to hope you get your bottles back.

Describe a typical day.
My van holds 40 cases, and I drive from the Bronx to New Jersey to Brooklyn for my steady customers. Three days a week I go to fill up the bottles. In the whole city, there’s one siphon filling machine still working—in Canarsie. You start with tap water, put it through a triple filtration system, plus a charcoal filter. You have to chill the water to 38 degrees, then infuse the carbon dioxide.

Is there going to be a fourth generation of Backerman seltzer men?
All the old guys used to tell me the business won’t last five years. The route has no place in 2010. But it had no place in the eighties either, and here I am still going.

To sign up for seltzer delivery, e-mail mrbubbles105@cs.com or call 718-468-4047.


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