New brewery looks to reinvigorate downtown Haddonfield
One night eight months ago, a group of beer aficionados was attending an “Art of Beer” class at the Markeim Arts Center. The group was attending the monthly class, learning about the nuances of brewing beer. After the class, a group of students decided to stick around and talk among themselves.
They were talking about Haddonfield, the businesses that were closing downtown or rumored to be selling. They also talked about how great Haddonfield was as a community and how good the schools were. Then someone asked, “What if we build a nano brewery in Haddonfield?”
What started as a question asked in jest would later turn into a business that could change the course of downtown Haddonfield.
Yeastie Boys LLC, comprised of Chris Thomas, Victoria Jensh Cummins, Pete Gagliardi, Jeff Farrell and Bob Hochgertel, were on hand Tuesday, Feb. 21, when the Haddonfield Zoning Board approved the zoning application for the brewery, King’s Road Brewing Company. Hochgertel, a member of the LLC, was one of the people who was a part of the group that stayed after the class.
“One of the people in the group looked into the language of the state legislation that allows for nano-breweries to function and also look into the language for Haddonfield zoning,” Hochgertel said. “One month later at the next beer class, the same people stayed after class and Michael Plunkett, who is now the LLC’s general counsel, came back and said nothing was stopping us from doing this. We then asked ourselves if this was something we want to do. We then all said, ‘You know what, let’s do this.”
Haddonfield is a “dry” town, meaning the sale of alcohol is not allowed in the town. However, because the brewery is not selling food on the premises and it will be making its own beer on the property and not selling another brand, it was deemed as a retail property and could open.
“I think this is a new thing for us and it is very interesting,” Mayor Jeff Kasko said. “I think it could be something very good for our downtown. I think that there is a certain clientele that visits these types of microbreweries and goes to beer tastings, and it should bring some additional foot traffic and maybe even some new foot traffic into downtown.”
The nano brewery is following a trend going on in other “dry” towns. Pitman and Collingswood also have a brewery. However, do not look for there to be a change in philosophy when it comes to changing the liquor ordinances.
“I do not see any movement or any support to having a referendum to overturn that,” Kasko added. “It is status quo as far as liquor licenses are concerned. We are not looking to have liquor stores or bars downtown, but what we are agreeable to is trying out something like this where it is very limited where they have to close at 10 p.m., and they cannot serve food. They will not be competing with the restaurants. In fact, they will be partnering with them. We are agreeable to trying this out. It will remain dry unless there is a referendum to overturn it.”
The search for a location was arduous. The group had to secure an address because part of the license application process requires a brewery to have a confirmed address. They explored a couple of sites in town, but for one reason or another, It did not work out. Meanwhile, they were working on other parts of the business including names for the brewery and pricing equipment. They contacted Scott Morrison, a brewery consultant who helped build a lot of the larger breweries in the region including Ship Bottom Brewing Company. Everything was set except the location was ready to go. One day, Remi Fortunato of the Partnership for Haddonfield called the group and Hochgertel showed the location at 127 Kings Highway.
“This is perfect for a tasting room,” said Hochgertel. “Then Remi told me that the site was the former Gibbs Tavern. Not only is it serendipity, but the name of the business that was going out of business was called Serendipity. It was aligned. We could not believe it.”
The Gibbs Tavern was originally built in 1777.
The Yeastie Boys LLC is hoping the brewery will limit the number of people who leave out the town to buy alcohol and patronize the businesses where they purchase it instead of coming back to Haddonfield.
“We are hoping that by having growlers to go out of our nano-brewery that people could order the beer and go to sit in one of the great restaurants in town,” he said.
“The craft beer industry has a passionate following,” Hochgertel said. “People who drink craft beer make it a point to try them all and go back to the ones they like. We believe that people will come from out of town and try our beer and eat at our restaurants and shop in our shops. This is something new that will attract a new audience and keep some of our current audience, and we are not slicing the pie another way. We are adding a new pie.”
As they are getting everything set to move forward, they have received help from other members of the brewing community.
“Everyone has been incredibly supportive from Devils Creek, to Human Village and Kelly Green in Pitman to the people at Tonewood,” Hochgertel added. It is a feeling of brotherhood. There is not a feeling of competition; it is a feeling of a rising tide raising all ships. They have been very helpful and giving pointers. They have been incredible.”
If everything goes well, the brewery will open in late 2017.