New Beginnings For the Former Dick Brothers Brewery in Quincy
The former Dick Brothers Brewery building at 9th and York in Quincy has a whole new future in store for it. The buildings owner, Liz Solaro, has spent the last three years converting the landmark into a new "art district."
The former bottle house is being converted into a space for artists, shops, performing arts, music and history tours. It's the culmination of a long time dream of Liz's, along with former owner, the late Ron Wellman.
There will be an unveiling and dedication for the building on Saturday, April 25 with a plaque being presented, and live music from Avenue Beat. We asked Liz to give us the scoop on this exciting new venture and the event Saturday night.
Liz, tell us about your history with the Dick Brothers Brewery building and what you're plans are for it.
I was looking for a building several years ago, because I am a photographer/artist who was looking for a studio space. I looked all over downtown and started feeling like I would like to own my own building instead of dropping rent "down the drain". I was not aware there was a brewery district in Quincy. A friend of mine who had bought a building downtown already suggested I look at the Dick Brothers Brew-house that was for sale. I drove by and thought, wow, this is really a huge building. I called the realtor just to ask a few questions. When i heard the low price (just over $100K) my jaw dropped in disbelief. It seemed so inexpensive for so much building. The other smaller buildings downtown that I wanted cost 3 to 5 times as much. Well, I toured it and fell in love with the architecture and the fact that it was solid like fortress. It's made entirely out of stone, brick, concrete and steel. No wooden floors, no wooden ceilings. And the view from the rooftop was breathtaking.
It's strange for a woman, but strangely I have a strong background in construction and architecture. I knew what was ahead of me. The way I look at big huge projects is little chunks at a time. I put in a fine art gallery, and expected to be showing my own work, but as I traveled with a museum group visiting many cities to see their art districts, art galleries and art studios I wanted to bring that to Quincy.
OKTOBERFEST: Two years ago the Rotary Club approached me and asked me if they could use my building, which was the Dick Brothers Tower Brew-House for their new event Oktoberfest. I liked the idea of being part of Oktoberfest because I was hoping someone would see the value of the buildings as a business/art/brewery district instead of just warehouses. But, I thought that the gallery wasn't large enough for beer tastings. I suggested that the Rotary involve the building across the street as well, and my gallery and the Brew-house could be open for tours. I floated the idea past Ron and we both agreed it might help sell his building to the right kind of buyer that would be on board with our idea of Brewery and Arts District. The Rotary contacted him, and he was delighted. Ron was always open to showing tours of the deep underground tunnels. Oktoberfest the first year was a much bigger hit than anyone expected, instead of 300 people attending, there were OVER 3,000. While he and his twin brother ran the tunnel tours, I gave quick 15-minute tours of the 2nd and 3rd floor of the Brew-House. I think there were nearly 1000 people who went through the tunnels, and about 400 went upstairs in the Brew-House. The result was there was a buyer who was very excited about the entire plan, but he bought the Dick Brothers building immediately to the North of the Brew-House, it was the old Boiler/Machine House.
Anyway, long story short, Ron and I kept trying to get the right person to buy, and he turned away a couple of offers that would have been warehouse space again. Well, Ron didn't realize he was so sick, and then when he found out he had a short time to live we talked a long time and I promised I would find a way to buy his building and turn it into something really wonderful. He died 5 months later. I wasn't able to buy it before he died, it took me almost a year, but we did it.
Tell us about your dream of making the location into an art district.
We are putting together a non-profit organization to front this effort that I call the QuBA Project. The Stock House will be used for more Industrial Arts. In fact, there is already one business in the Stock House Business called, Custom Hardwood that does incredible and beautiful custom design work, like ornate spiral staircases. The entity that owns that and the Machine Building is Dick Brothers, INC. Headed by Bret Austin and Mark Krogman. So they own two buildings. And then, the Bottle House were be sort of the nerve center of the artists, with studios, and a place for performing arts, and a venue for musicians, and we would like to have a market/restaurant there. Then where the tunnels open up, we are planning shops lining the entrance. Also, we would like to have a tourist center/gift shop at the front, that way people could come and find out about the history, sign up for tours, buy souvenirs, and maybe sit for a cup of coffee. I am talking to some large micro-brewers to bring a significant sized brewery here to this area. You really have to have beer in an historic brewery that was so important to Quincy.
What will be happening at the unveiling this weekend?
This weekend we will be having live music. We were going to have it outside on the green space on the west side of the bottle house. But I think it is going to be chilly and rainy. I decided yesterday to just open up the largest room of the Bottle House that has 25 foot ceilings and just have the concert there. That way people can catch a glimpse at the building before the conversion. It runs from 1-4, but at 2:30 we will be talking about our plans, and just honoring the memory of Ron, since it was his building and a shared dream of his.
Is there anything people can do to help or contribute?
Yes if they are willing! We will probably start a twice a month weekend volunteer day. So anyone who wants to show up can. Right away there won't be much. But later, there will be things like wall painting, wall building, signs, and help with awareness events. The events are pretty labor intensive, so we can have more of them if people pitch in. With more awareness comes more support and more funding when we are a full blown non-profit.