Why is Cola called Soda City?

photo by Anna Garrison-Nemeth

If you ever have a question – like why we pronounce Huger St. “yew-jee” or why we’re obsessed with Cromer’s “guaranteed worst in town” boiled peanuts 🥜 send it to us and we’ll figure it out for you.


A common question we get, and one I realized I wondered about myself: Why is Columbia nicknamed Soda City? What does soda have to do with Columbia? We’re all self-proclaimed connoisseurs of this city we love so much, but how many of us even know where Columbia got its (now super-common) nickname?

It’s actually super obvious + I’m almost ashamed to admit how much I was overthinking it. 🤦‍

❗️ Answered ❗️

Columbia ➡️ abbreviated to COLA ➡️ COLA = soda ➡️ Soda City. Mind blown. Really.

I know what you’re thinking, because I thought the same thing – it really can’t be that simple. Nothing is that straightforward, smack-you-in-the-face easy – but this is.

We hear it originated with Soda City market, Columbia’s Saturday farmer’s market, which used to be called the All Local Farmer’s Market and held at 701 Whaley until it moved to Main St. in 2012.

There are several alternate theories. Everyone’s initial guess? Columbia was once home to a Coca-Cola bottling plant. True. So: Because we once bottled Coca-Cola here, and cola = soda, then Soda City came from this. False. Based on our informal research + conversations, the Coke bottling plant was *not* the reason for the namesake (even though it makes sense).

photo by Anna Garrison-Nemeth

You innovative thinkers, you. Everything doesn’t have to be so complicated.

I discovered in my Soda City research that *some people* also call Cola River City. Why is this? Because the Saluda, Congaree + Broad rivers meet here. Duh.

Another pressing question I have: Why, malfunction junction, WHY? Who thought this death trap of a highway merge was a good idea? 🙅

Have a question you want to ask about Columbia? Send it to us, and we’ll try to answer. ❗️

Popping the top of my soda + pondering more of this city’s mysteries.