"Samantha Durfey was a high school sophomore in St. George, Utah, when the first Swig soda shop opened its doors there. Today, at 28, Ms. Durfey, visits the shop at least three times a week. She usually orders a Save Me Jade — Diet Dr Pepper with sugar-free vanilla and coconut flavor syrups — but every now and then she’ll change her order if she wants a break from caffeine.
“They have really good carbonated-water drinks, and because carbonated water itself is disgusting they mix it with fresh fruits and sugar-free syrups and stuff,” she said, “and it makes it taste really yummy.”
Since the first Swig opened in 2010, dozens of soda-shop chains and independent soda shacks have opened from Idaho to Utah to Arizona, an area of the Mountain West sometimes called the Mormon Corridor. A significant portion of the region’s population belongs to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and the church’s prohibition on tea and coffee has spurred a niche beverage market that has intensified in the last decade, hitting a fever pitch during the pandemic.
The soda-shop chains pay special attention to the history of Starbucks — which decades ago expanded at a breakneck pace, from fewer than 20 stores in 1987 to more than 100 in 1992. Worldwide, there are more than 30,000 Starbucks today. Many soda-shop owners believe their industry could be at least that successful.
“There is a great soda-drinking culture in the Mountain West region,” Mr. Auernig said, adding, “What Starbucks originally did for coffee was kind of our idea with soda.”"