Serjad Makmadeen aka Joseph Charles
View all articles by Horace Harrigan
On to Solo and Joseph Charles
Like any young businessman on the brink of a breakthrough in the early 1930s, Makmadeen saved his money and by the age of 20 was thinking about his own business. He was able to accumulate the tidy sum of $350, borrowed another $250 from a friend and purchased a small soft drinks plant at St. James.
He became chief cook and bottle washer in real terms for he mixed the flavours, washed the bottles, filled them and was the sole salesman of the enterprise. This one-man operation worked well and he was able to produce almost two cases of drinks a day. But he worked manfully to achieve this and was still delivering bread to customers on the side.
When he decided to operate fully in the soft drink business he found out that an East Indian in those times attempting to breakthrough in such an enterprise had little chance of success. His first experience in that regard came when he was unable to get overseas information on that enterprise.
It was then he decided to change his name to Joseph Charles. This worked like a dream. He wrote overseas once more signing his new name and received the information he sought. It was all about plant operations and the then modern techniques that went with it.
The business was expanded with the purchase of a new plant with which Charles was able to produce eight bottles per minute. The war years of the 1940s were on and he struggled through with his efforts and by 1950 he bought property at the corner of Tragarete Road and White Street where a more modern plant was set up.
With the use of modern equipment from the United States, many facets being done automatically, the capacity increased to 72 bottles per minute and then to 144.
Charles’ personal efforts were remarkable. He worked for long hours and in the late 1960s brought in his two sons, Vernon and Ken, into the business as young executives.
It was all work and no play for Charles in those years as he sought further expansion. His first step was in 1959 when he moved the plant to the Beetham Highway, the first industry to be situated there.
New flavours were introduced and Solo beverages moved on challenging all others, even those which were the only ones the public seemed to recognize years before.
Joseph Charles remained a simple man even with success oozing out of his veins. He worked hard and kept, it seemed, just five close friends, all of them from boyhood.
But work took its toll and in 1966 he passed away, still a man many believed had enough in him to give to the community. On a plaque at the entrance of the Solo head office on the highway, is inscribed the words:
"In memory of Joseph Charles, whose kindness, generosity and service has only been exceeded by his humility. 1910 – 1966."
Nothing, to be sure, is descriptively more emphatic than such a passage.