Diners delight at Phil’s Filling Station’s Coca Cola collection

Coca Cola memorabilia at Phil’s Filling Station decorates nearly every nook and cranny of three entire rooms in the diner-style Fountain Hills restaurant. The collection of bottles, tins, serving trays, abstract art, and large framed puzzles depicting scenes and logos from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s, is courtesy of owner Phil Rodakis, who has been collecting the memorabilia since the restaurant opened in 1997.

Phil vividly remembers when he first fell in love with Coca Cola. He was five years old.

The New York native said he was spending a summer in Greece visiting relatives, where the food was distinctly different. The popular soft drink, along with french fries and the fresh bread he bought daily from a local baker, sustained him until he returned home. There he has fond memories of spending time in diners and restaurants owned by relatives, who decorated with the promotional items they received from the Coca Cola company.

“I like Coca Cola,” he said. “It reminds me of growing up in New York. I want to give others the same experience of going back in time.”

And it does. In fact, for the past five or six years, Phil says locals have been bringing him Coca Cola memorabilia they’ve found in their attics and garages, asking him to hang it somewhere on the restaurant’s walls. Sometimes he says yes, such as to the collection of Detroit Tigers commemorative Coca Cola cans one customer brought him years ago. Although the patron has since passed away, the collection still hangs on the wall, eliciting fond memories from other Detroit natives who often reminisce about collecting the cans as youngsters themselves.

Phil said he finds the art at big box stores, flea markets, and art fairs, buying things he likes without concern for its historical value.

“A lot of these are just modernized antiques — replicas,” he said. “People ask me all the time how much I think my collection is worth and I have no idea. “I’m not doing it to make money, I’m doing it because I love it.”

And while he won’t admit to having a favorite piece of decor, the framed Coca Cola puzzles that hang on his wall do have enormous sentimental significance. They were assembled by his father while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for cancer. In three years, his dad put together nearly 100 puzzles and had them framed for display before passing in 2019.

During the holidays, the regular memorabilia is replaced by Christmas-themed pieces, including decorated trees and ornaments, many depicting jovial Santa Clauses holding bottles of Coca Cola.

“I just enjoy it,” Phil said, with a casual shrug. “Whenever I see something that I like, I pick it up. I have enough stuff in storage I can probably decorate another restaurant, but one restaurant is enough.”

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