A team of four local home-brew enthusiasts are ready to go all-in on a new local brewery business together, preparing to lease and repurpose a small industrial building in south Downtown Orlando in anticipation of new mixed-use development in the vicinity.
Sean Burke, a local information technology and business development consultant, partnered in late 2016 with fellow homebrewers Chris Rock and Jeremy Pittman, owner of Orlando Homebrew Supplies, to launch RockPit Brewing.
They market-tested the brand and its brews at local craft beer events, and received what Burke deemed "overwhelming feedback of latent demand for the craft brew industry in Central Florida."
So they began site selection earlier this year, with fourth partner Ed Clark, commissioning market analyses on demographics and income with an eye to Downtown Orlando's emerging areas The Milk District and SoDo.
"With Orlando's diverse population and economy, we think it's a really good opportunity for us to take advantage of this growing segment" of the food service industry, Burke told GrowthSpotter.
The group favored SoDo, and is now in negotiations to lease 10 W. Illiana St., a 5,450-square-foot metal frame industrial building set just off S. Orange Avenue in its 2800 block, south of E. Michigan Street and directly west of the Publix-anchored Market at Southside.
It will also be northwest of the Pineloch Avenue intersection, and less than a city block from where Intram Investments and Blurock Commercial are developing a Lucky's Market-anchored retail center, with 300 apartments by LeCesse.
Burke and his partners have a determination request still pending before city staff to allow a brewery and taproom at the property, which of late has housed a welding business.
They'll also have to tie the property in to city sewage lines, and plan to buildout the building shell and subdivide it into three distinct service areas.
Those would include a brewery with a five- to 10-barrel system, a taproom to serve the public, and a retail area for Orlando Homebrew Supplies, which would relocate there from its current leased space at 2230 Curry Ford Road.
The store, which now offers classes in addition to its supply sales for beer and wine making, should benefit from shared customer traffic with the brewery, Burke said.
"Our goal is to be open July 1 for business," he added, estimating $250,000 or more would be invested by the group in equipment and interior buildout by that date.
The group is still working to situate about 40 percent of its capital needs for the project from another private investor or small business loan, Burke said.