ABC's Cumberland County expansion will shift production focus in Harrisburg
Seven might be a lucky number, but so is 10.
For Artie Tafoya and his two partners at Harrisburg-based Appalachian Brewing Co., both numbers have significance and the potential to carry the 16-year-old brewery well into the future.
The latter is a goal the owners set for themselves in 2007 after expanding their brewpub to two additional locations.
"We set a goal of 10 locations," Tafoya said.
ABC opened a Gettysburg location in 2003. Its Hampden Township location on Market Street opened in 2006.
The company followed with locations in Collegeville, Montgomery County, and Lititz in 2011 and 2012, then opened a second brewpub near Gettysburg in Straban Township this year. The plan is to open No. 7 around Feb. 1 in Silver Spring Township.
ABC acquired the 26,000-square-foot former Sutliff Auto Group dealership at 6462 Carlisle Pike in September. Renovations are ongoing.
The lucky seventh brewpub will have a seating area in the mezzanine, as well as an open-air section and outdoor dining on the terrace patio that will be installed. There also will be a family area with booths and interactive gaming on the tables.
An upper-level banquet room is in the future plans.
The goal of the yearlong search was not to open another Cumberland County brewpub, Tafoya said. The owners were looking for a new manufacturing site to alleviate capacity issues in Harrisburg.
"When we found this, we sort of got both," Tafoya said.
ABC produces about 8,000 barrels annually at its Harrisburg location. It has the ability to produce about 12,000 barrels, but that takes additional storage space.
The Silver Spring location does three things for the home brewery.
First, it takes specialty beer production away from Harrisburg and allows the company's main brewery to focus on the flagship beer styles, which it can expand production on.
"This gives us 50 percent capacity to fill in," he said.
Tafoya said he expects changes to the flagship line, including an expansion. That lineup includes Water Gap Wheat Ale, Mountain Lager, Purist Pale Ale and Jolly Scot Scottish Ale. ABC has seven styles it currently sells in 12-ounce bottles.
Second, the new facility will house the company's entire craft soda packaging line, which currently includes four flavors: root beer, diet root beer, white birch beer and ginger beer.
Over time, ABC could produce about 5,000 barrels annually from the Silver Spring site.
"Each location helps the company grow," Tafoya said.
Together, the two production changes generate a lot of long-term potential on the distribution side as ABC continues to expand its brand beyond Pennsylvania.
Third, the new facility should be comparable to Harrisburg on the employment side. Tafoya expects to have 50 or 60 people employed there.
Future of Harrisburg
ABC has no intention of closing the Hampden Township location or any of its other brewpubs. Tafoya said this facility should better serve Cumberland County customers in the Carlisle area and further west.
Ten locations remains the short-term goal. ABC continues to scout brewpub locations in Maryland and areas outside of Central Pennsylvania.
"Growth outside the area is our main focus," Tafoya said. "(But) we're not totally saturated here."
Hershey still has potential, he said.
"We feel we're good at what we do. Expansion is easier the more you do it," Tafoya said.
What about Harrisburg?
The partners have always had an interest in acquiring a neighboring abandoned property at 38-40 N. Cameron St. to expand warehouse needs in Harrisburg.
But the city-owned property — currently listed at $150,000 — has always been cost prohibitive, Tafoya said. Last year, he pegged the cost around $500,000 to $600,000 to buy the property, demolish the old structure and put up another building.
He recently increased that cost to $1 million. ABC would like to work with the city and the Capital Region Economic Development Corp., or CREDC, to acquire it as a neighborhood revitalization project.
The building has to be demolished because the roof is caving in and trees are growing out of it.
ABC acquired its headquarters for $1 from the city because it was fire damaged and in need of major investment.
"We couldn't wait any longer," Tafoya said of Harrisburg, hoping something will eventually transpire with that adjacent property.
Dave Black, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC, said it would like to move forward with a project.
"I think right now it's up to the new mayor," he said. "We've communicated to the transition team that looking at publicly owned, abandoned properties, whether it's redevelopment authority or the city, it's something they should develop a policy on. I think they're probably open to that."
Black said he remains optimistic and hopeful.
"We'd love to see that little corner cleaned up there," he said.
Mayor-elect Eric Papenfuse supports disposition of city-owned property, especially blighted structures in need of repair, according to a statement from the incoming administration.
"He supports sale of blighted property that the city owns to support economic development and returning the property to the tax rolls or stimulating creation of jobs," said spokeswoman Joyce Davis. "With regard to the North Cameron Street building, Mayor-elect Papenfuse supports sale of the property, and believes its sale to the Appalachian Brewery provides the best available option."