Tavares Economic Development Director Bob Tweedie has been making the rounds for years at local craft brewers’ conferences, hoping to recruit one for the city’s Waterfront Entertainment District.
A craft beer enthusiast himself, Tweedie noted that other towns, like Clermont and Eustis, have landed microbreweries that tend to bring visitors and more private sector investment.
“We want to put Tavares on that map,” Tweedie said. “They are destinations, and they bring people in who will travel to different places to sample the beer. This is something we’ve been desirous of adding to our downtown entertainment district for quite a while.”
So when local home brewers Gary and Stephenie Winheim’s Woosah Craft Brew submitted the only bid to lease the city’s historic Alfred Street Train Station, Tweedie felt like he had struck gold.
The Winheims plan to renovate the 1925 building inside and out, installing a brewing system capable of producing 100 gallons of beer per brew. The 3,450-square-foot building would have a tap room that incorporates the city’s seaplane theme and dog friendly green space, Stephenie Winheim told GrowthSpotter.
Gary Winheim, a captain in the Eustis Police Department, started home brewing as a hobby in 2014 and trained with a professional brewmaster to gain the skills to launch his own business when he retires from law enforcement. The plan culminated with unanimous City Council vote this week to accept the Woosah proposal and grant them a 5-month due diligence period to secure financing and consult with architects and engineers. Stephenie Winheim is a former nurse who now works full time as a real estate agent for Dave Lowe Realty.
City spokesman Mark O’Keefe said the project was enthusiastically received by the council. “Tavares is excited about this project, as demonstrated by the unanimous council vote to support this concept moving forward,” he said.
The extended due diligence period should give the Winheims the time to come up with a detailed renovation plan that respects the historical integrity of the building. Any improvements to the exterior of the building would need a certificate of appropriateness from the Planning & Zoning Board.
“Craft breweries tend to gravitate toward historic buildings and old warehouses,” Tweedie said. “It creates a marketable niche and adds to the ambience and value of their business. The train station is perfect. I just felt from the very beginning that this is the perfect size for what they’re looking to do, and it’s one of the few buildings we had in town that had that kind of charm.”
Stephenie Winheim said they want to take advantage of the roll up doors that were installed when the building served as a fire station to create a flexible indoor-outdoor space.
“We want to update them and glass them in to make it really light and bright,” she said. “So many breweries are dark. We also love the brick walls and high ceilings. We want to keep the charm and historic look.”
The Winheims also plan to serve light food offerings and partner with food truck operators. “One of the things we learned this year because of COVID is that having a food license is important so you can be considered an essential business,” she said.
She estimates the investment to get the business up and running will be between $200,000 and $300,000. Tweedie said the city would likely agree to discounted rent in light of the private investment from the tenant. They both agree that adding the property to the entertainment district, which allows open containers of alcohol, is critical to its success.