Two craft beer homebrewing friends want to transform a 1930s-era gas station in Riverside into Post Modern Brewing, a brewery and taproom.
Andrew Suslak and Brandon Merkle, owners of Post Modern Brewing LLC, intend to renovate the former Pure Oil Co. gas station at 2951 Post St.
The property is adjacent to the U.S. 17 overpass where Riverside meets Murray Hill.
The owners’ path to a craft beer business began when Merkle needed a place for his brewing equipment after moving into a new apartment. He landed in Suslak’s garage.
After six years of garage brewing, and winning some awards, they “realized we might be on to something and decided to go pro,” Suslak said.
Suslak, 40, is a pharmacist and attorney. Merkle, 35, has a background in retail and real estate property management.
“We looked around and found a location after a year or so and said, ‘OK, this is the place,’ ” said Suslak, who grew up in Riverside.
Suslak and Merkle bought the 1,346-square-foot gas station on 0.19 acres in September.
Vacant for 20 years, it is remembered for its purple exterior when the Purple Petunia florist and antique shop operated in the building. The florist sign still is attached to the building.
Merkle said they plan to install a 3½-barrel brewing system and start with six types of beer, then expand up to 16.
Suslak said they have brewed “all different types of beers, but plan to focus on ales as opposed to lagers.”
Merkle said they may consider making cider, nonalcoholic soft drinks and kombucha, a slightly alcoholic tea drink.
Suslak said the decor has not been determined, but the brewing area will be the focal point.
Operating hours are tentative, but they plan to be open from noon to midnight during the week and noon-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Suslak said they plan to hire two full-time employees and one part-time worker.
Before it can open, Post Modern Brewing must receive federal Alcohol & Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau brewpub approval and a state license.
To do so, they must entitle the property for the use with the city, comply with the city historic preservation building requirements, receive renovation permits and install the brewing equipment.
Jack Shad of Windmill Consulting is helping Post Modern with the city entitlement process.
“I would love to be open by this winter,” Suslak said.
The property also must be rezoned for use as a craft brewery and Post Modern is seeking relaxed setback and parking requirements.
The site plan shows the property will have five on-site parking spaces.
Two angled parking spaces are proposed on Willow Branch Avenue and three parallel spaces are proposed along Post Street. Space also will be provided for a food truck.
They hope to meet with the city Planning Commission in July, Suslak said.
The property lies within the Riverside/Avondale Historic District and the Riverside Overlay Zone and the owners met with Riverside Avondale Preservation about the project.
Suslak said RAP supports putting the brewery and taproom at the location after being vacant for about 20 years.
“People just want to see it used and we have this idea and the means to bring it to fruition,” Suslak said.
Suslak said the building is historic.
“Pure Oil Co. built 500 to 700 across the country with less than 100 left and seven are currently on the National Register (of Historic Places). We want to get it put on the register as well,” he said.
The Pure Oil station, constructed in 1935, followed the English Tudor Cottage style of the “Romantic Suburbs,” coined by architect Carl A. Peterson as a branding element for motorists to easily identify.
Merkle said the individual gas station owners picked the building features out of a catalog.
“I want a porte-cochère, I want two bays not one or three, add a manager’s suite,” he said. The buildings are modular and you added to the base cottage.
Suslak said the Jacksonville Historic Preservation Commission is fine with the project if they return it to the original condition.
“It needs a lot of work. We are not trying to reinvent the wheel. It has good bones,” he said.
Suslak said they enjoyed the juxtaposition in the brewery name, Post Modern, where postmodernism is a combination of many styles.
“Our logo has Post at the top and Modern Brewing at the bottom. You can hear it both ways and we like the wordplay,” he said.
By: Scott Sailer