The Aardwolf Is Coming

April 13, 2012 25 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville gets the opportunity to host a special Q&A session with Michael Payne and Preben Olsen of the Aardwolf Brewing Company. Coming soon to San Marco's historic South Jacksonville Utilities Building, Aardwolf Brewing Company will be the latest craft brewery to open in Jacksonville's urban core.

The building Aardwolf plans to occupy was constructed in 1927 as an ice plant for Joseph  Howe's South Jacksonville Utilities Company. The company would operate under several names, such as the Southern Service Company and Consumers Ice Company, until 1954.  In 1954, the building became the home of the Moyer Marble & Tile Company, which remained on site until the early 2000s.

6. How difficult has it been to coordinate getting all the necessary permits, inspections, etc. with the City of Jacksonville?  Do you believe that Jacksonville invests enough in its entrepreneurial economy?

We are still in the rezoning process and therefore are not able at this time to administratively seek permits to construct.  As a result, we cannot viably comment on that process.

Interesting questionŅ.With respect to the COJ encouraging its small business type entrepreneurial economy, we may have “missed itԅ but we have not seen any obvious avenues of assistance for which we may be eligible.  It is something the City may want to consider since it’s difficult to envision how the downtown can eventually develop in the manner desired being that much of the support infrastructure needed for company or residential relocation must eventually come from the efforts of the small business person/entrepreneur. One needs only to look at San Marco, Avondale, Riverside, etc. to understand what the “small business” contributes to the desirability of those areas of town as preferred places to live.

7. What has been your experience with the current City of Jacksonville rezoning regulations in regards to moving forward with your project?

Currently we have found that our project necessitates a P.U.D.  Unfortunately, that approach takes additional time.  To date, the COJ Planning Department staff has aptly guided our consultant team as to how to best address the issues facing the redevelopment of an existing quasi-historic industrial building without having to be procedurally lumped in with the same siting regulations that control the typical new construction “strip-center”.  The latter is something in our limited experience that the City Council may want to consider addressing by Ordinance.  That is to say, new development and redevelopment can be (and usually are) different, but the City Codes do not allow for flexibility or rational interpretation based upon circumstances.  One would assume that this issue probably has important relevance to the future redevelopment of existing older and architecturally significant buildings (like the San Marco Ice House, but downtown) – be they commercial or residential.

In addition to the City Planning Department staff, we have benefited greatly from the support, guidance and advice of the San Marco Preservation Society as well as District 5 Councilwoman Lori Boyer.  The proposed brewery’s credibility in the rezoning process has likewise been enhanced by having landlords who are both well-known and highly respected within the San Marco community.

8.  When did you realize that your next career move would be the development of a brewery?

Michael: I went to school for ceramic art and pursued that career path for a few years, but eventually decided that it wasn't going to be something I could make a living doing.  In 2007 I decided that my other passion, beer, was something I might be able to make a career out of and went to brewing school at the Siebel Institute in Chicago and the Doemens Academy in Munich.  From there I went on to work at Terrapin Beer Company in Athens, GA and then helped start Brewer's Pizza in Orange Park.  Opening this size brewery facility has been my goal for the last six years and everything I have done during that time has been with the intention of learning to brew the best beer possible.  For me, this brewery is a dream that is finally being realized after years of effort.

Preben: After moving back to Jacksonville several years ago with a marketing degree from Auburn University, I quickly learned that the economy and demographics were severely limiting the job market options in my chosen field.  Fortunately, I found a job at Grassroots in Five Points where the owners would eventually impart their love of craft beer to me.  It’s through the medium of craft beer sales I met Michael Payne.  For the past 3 years I have been honing my skills and knowledge of the craft beer industry locally as well as nationally with thoughts of potentially someday seeking a regional marketing position for a craft brewery.  Michael approached me about participating in the opening a local brewery nearly a year ago, and I haven’t looked back since.  Being able to market your own product, and being a part of the rapidly evolving City of Jacksonville beer scene is the best of all worlds…..

9. What is your vision for Hendricks Avenue and what role does Aardwolf Brewing Company play in that vision?

Preben: With the concurrent development of the San Marco Train Station across the street (a fortuitous unplanned occurrence), we believe that the brewery will contribute to the gentrification of an industrialized section of Hendricks Avenue left idle for a number of years. There is every reason to believe that the synergy of the two redeveloped sites bordering the Hendricks Avenue railroad crossing can only benefit the remainder of the area – both residential and commercial. The brewery taproom will provide a new complimentary night time destination in an area of Jacksonville already known for its outstanding restaurants and shops.

10. Where can we go to get updates and additional information on Aardwolf Brewing Company?

Preben: The Aardwolf website (under reconstruction) will be one source of information.  We also intend to set up a Facebook Page.

11. How difficult was it to find small business financing in this market?  Any advice for those seeking startup capital?

Michael: In all probability, acquiring startup capital from conventional sources – at this point in time – for this type of venture is not highly probable.

We were fortunate to have found private funding so that hurdle at least is one we were able to avoid.

Interview by Ennis Davis

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