Something's brewing: Expansion on Maxwell will include larger brewery, restaurant
By: Greg Deal
When The Mill House started serving homemade brick-oven pizzas on Maxwell Avenue seven years ago, co-owner Paul Bartolomeo didn't know what to expect.
"It's been surprising," he said. "I don't know if I envisioned this. Each step is sort of like a new vision."
The "this" Bartolomeo is talking about are the increasing expansions to the business since 2010. The Mill House opened at 237 Maxwell Ave. A year later, Bartolomeo and co-owner Gianpaolo "Geep" Bonaca purchased a building at 235 Maxwell Ave. to expand seating for the restaurant. In 2014 they expanded the back portion of that building to add a brewery, which became Good Times Brewery.
They didn't have to look far for a brewmaster. The two owners had worked on some projects with Sidney Huskey, who had been home-brewing small-batch beers — and, later, all-grain batch beers — since 1991.
"I was looking to start a brewery, and they were looking to open a brewery, so it just worked out together," Huskey said.
The newest venture, one door up from Good Times Brewery at 233 Maxwell — a building the owners purchased through a bank auction — will be a consolidated brewery and new restaurant. The project will include three phrases. The first phase, expected to be completed this fall, involves moving the three-barrel brewing system from the back of 235 Maxwell into the new building, then adding a 10-barrel system. The brewing equipment will be visible to the public, and the owners say that's a good thing because many people have never seen the brewing process. Aside from the aesthetics, the new equipment will have a variety of practical functions.
"It is going to greatly increase the amount of beer I can make at a time, it's going to increase the number and styles of beer I can make, and it will allow me to have the ability to do a lot more experimental beers and, hopefully, get our beers across the whole state so more people can enjoy them," Huskey said.
The second phase, expected to be completed by the fall of 2018, is a new restaurant and a tap room in the same building as the brewery. The owners haven't yet decided on the type of food they'll offer, but they are considering a few options, and Bonaca is optimistic.
"It's about building and growing a business, but it's also about bringing something to the community that we don't have here yet — something I think the community is looking for," he said.
Bonaca said the ongoing expansions along Maxwell are a product of their success with The Mill House.
"We started off as a pizza and sandwich shop with a few beers, then we started devoting ourselves more to craft beer," he said. "As the craft beer movement grew and the restaurant grew, we decided to take that a step forward and start brewing beer. With the great support we've had from the community, and the way the craft beer industry is growing now, we decided to expand that further."
Bonaca said they were having difficulties meeting the demand and production capacity for beers, both in-house and with statewide distribution. "It necessitated growth," he said.
The third phase of the expansion is creating an upstairs venue at 233 Maxwell for rent for a variety of functions. It will have a balcony that overlooks the Uptown Market. The owners will have populated three vacant buildings on the once-sleepy Maxwell Avenue that is now abuzz with activity. Bonaca credits photographer Jon Holloway and his studio for spurring growth along Maxwell. Bonaca said the city has also helped make Maxwell an attractive location.
"The few businesses that have started here, combined with the work the city has done to beautify Uptown and redo the roads and have some nice public features ... I think all of those things work in concert to get us where we are now, and, hopefully, to get more people coming in," Bonaca said.