Celebrating 100 years in business
Our story starts millions of years ago as the volcanoes in the San Luis Obispo valley were erupting and forming the layers of rock and soil and the natural springs of the region. But we won’t go back that far. Crystal Springs Water has been serving San Luis Obispo County and Santa Maria Valley for more than 100 years. We’re proud of our local water, the freshest, best-tasting on the Central Coast.
The history of Crystal Springs Water is nearly as old as the history of San Luis Obispo. It’s a colorful story that’s a bit mysterious, with a twinge of sadness but full of the American spirit, ingenuity and enterprise that continue at the company to this day.
The land where the springs sit was once owned by the richest and largest land owner in the county, Patrick Washington (P.W.) Murphy.
P.W. Murphy was from a prominent family. His father, Martin, an Irish immigrant, was one of the men who brought California into statehood. By doing so, Martin Murphy was awarded a U.S. Land Commission patent for Rancho de la Cuesta. Those lands today are part of Rancho Santa Margarita. Martin passed the Rancho in 1861 to his son, P.W.
Owning nearly 70, 000 acres of land throughout California, P.W. Murphy was instantly a prominent citizen in the township of San Luis Obispo. He sat on the Board of Directors of the J.P. Andrews Bank and the San Luis Obispo Water Company. He also served in the California State Assembly (1881) and Senate (1865, 1867 and 1877).
The first proof of the spring’s location is recorded in an 1874 survey of the land by then County Surveyor, R. R. Harris. The name of the land was the Phillips and Beebee Addition, Murphy sub-division, Lot 30. The hand-drawn survey of the San Luis Obispo Township shows the outskirts location of the springs where Crystal Springs Water flows to this day at 3215 Rockview Place.
After P.W. Murphy died, the land was sold three years later, in 1904, at public auction to the J.P. Andrews Bank. A year later, Andrews sold the property personally to Mary S. Spaulding, a local school teacher, for $10 gold coin. It was , 400 less than what he paid for the land! J.P Andrews had been characterized as a no-nonsense, pretty stingy guy. Why would he sell the land to the schoolmarm so cheap?
It was around this time that neighboring ranchers – the Steele Brothers, Damon’s, Garcia’s and Bettencourt’s began purchasing the spring water for their ranches. Crystal Springs Water was born.
The Chicken Farmer
After 30 years of teaching in San Luis Obispo County, Mary S. Spaulding retired. Spaulding kept the Crystal Springs Water land until 1925, selling it to chicken farmer Jesse Yoakum. The land was sub-divided into several tracts and became known as the Yoakum Poultry Tract on Old Edna Road. Yoakum continued to sell the water to neighboring ranchers.
It was around 1928 that Walter R. Hudson heard about the springs from a miner in Ely, Nevada. He moved to San Luis Obispo and bought Crystal Springs Water from Jesse Yoakum with the intent to bottle and deliver the water. Being an enterprising gentleman and now mobile with the improvement of the automobile, Hudson grew the Crystal Springs Water delivery business.
The Hudson’s bottle labels featured a cute photo of a very young W.R. Hudson, Jr. in overalls holding a fresh glass of the New Crystal Springs Water while standing on a chair next to a glass bottle and dispenser. The labels declared, “Our motto is purity and sanitation. Our aim is prompt service always.” Hudson marketed the purity and sanitation of the water in the 20’s and 30’s, in the age of rusty city pipes, polio and water-born disease.
The Hudson’s built the Crystal Spring Water business through the Great Depression and into the throes of World War II. W.R. Hudson might have left the family business to W.R Jr. after the war, but sadly, Jr. was killed in action and Mr. Hudson died soon after.
Family Owned and Operated for Four Generations
In 1944, an ambitious man bought Crystal Springs Water from W.R. Hudson’s widow for $15, 000. Edmund Downing Jr. had worked at the springs for a year and decided to take the risk. That risk paid off and Crystal Springs Water has grown tremendously, staying in the Downing and Mulay families for more than 60 years and four generations.
Left to Right: Dominic Mulay, Eric Mulay, Suzanne Mulay and Anthony Mulay.Today, John Jr. and Eric Mulay operate Crystal Springs. They grew up at the spring’s site on Rockview Place, in the house next to the holding tanks. John and Eric started working the business when they were kids. Both helped out on the docks and in the office. The Mulay family home became the Crystal Springs Water corporate office in 1984 and now Eric and John use their old bedrooms as their offices.
Now, Eric Mulay and his wife, Suzanne, control the bottled water and coffee service divisions while brother, John Mulay Jr. owns the softener and reverse osmosis divisions.