Metro-East News

August 3, 2014

A hot dog of a deal: Who's going to buy world's largest catsup bottle?

Good news isn't exactly flowing, but there's been no shortage of speculation about the future of the Brooks Catsup Bottle.

Since property owner Larry Eckert announced last month that the world's largest catsup bottle and adjacent warehouse were for sale, rumors have abounded about the roadside attraction's future, including buzz that hot dog vendor Oscar Mayer might be interested in the oversized condiment.

Oscar Mayer released a photo taken before the for-sale sign went up, from the Wienermobile's nearly-annual visit to the catsup bottle that looms over Collinsville.

"With six large hot dogs on wheels traveling across the country all year, we could use a worthy condiment," read their public statement.

"Frankly speaking, it mayo may not happen," replied self-described "Big Tomato" Mike Gassmann, who leads the catsup bottle's fan club. "But we would relish a benevolent ownership from Oscar Mayer."

Unfortunately, that seems to have been a passing interest, according to Eckert and Gassmann. Serious interest has been expressed from other parties, however.

"We've gotten some nibbles on it," Eckert said. "I'm working with people more serious than (Oscar Mayer), but I can't say too much right now."

City Manager Scott Williams said the city's economic development department is working with Eckert to market the property, in the hopes of attracting an owner that will ensure the survival of one Collinsville's tourist attractions.

"We're hopeful the catsup bottle will stay as it is for a very long time," Williams said.

However, there have been no discussions of using tax dollars to buy the property or the catsup bottle itself, Williams said.

Gassmann has said an owner willing to put in a welcome center, museum or cafe would be a perfect use of what he described as a property with "so much potential."

"A partnership between us and an owner with deep pockets would make a lot of people really, really happy," he said.

The 170-foot former water tower is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was commissioned and built in the late 1940s as a water supply for the Brooks Catsup Co., which closed its Collinsville plant in the early 1960s. The bottle-shaped tower was restored in 1995 with a grassroots funding effort, and since then has served as a roadside attraction with its own festival every July.

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