Plans taking shape for microbrewery, restaurant


As Hayes C. Larkins walks through the old Mount Airy firehouse, he sees something invisible to others.

He visualizes a beer-brewing operation in one of the old firetruck bays, a handsome dining room on the second floor and diners enjoying custom-brewed beers.

If all goes according to plan, Mr. Larkins' vision of opening the Mount Airy Brewing Co. and Firehouse Grill will materialize by Oct. 1, just in time for Mount Airy's Fall Festival.

"We need to be open by then," said Mr. Larkins, co-owner of the old firehouse with A. Reid Allison III of Seattle.

The two men and their wives bought the firehouse at 233 S. Main St. in May and plan to convert it into a microbrewery and restaurant.

Mr. Larkins, 66, of Hampstead, the owner of the Home Brew Shop in the Pennsylvania Dutch Farmers' Market in Westminster, is the hands-on partner in the venture until Mr. Allison, who is a lawyer, moves to Mount Airy.

After obtaining the title to the firehouse and local consent for the microbrewing venture, Mr. Larkins has been working for two months with architects, interviewing chefs, pricing kitchen equipment and handling the paperwork to obtain the necessary licenses and permits for the project.

"It's a challenge," Mr. Larkins said of the business venture.

In April, the Larkinses and the Allisons paid $390,000 for the old firehouse, which had been vacant for three years. They plan to put about $250,000 worth of renovations into the project.

Mr. Allison, a former resident of Mount Airy, spent the past year obtaining zoning and liquor license approvals for the microbrewery and securing financing.

Along the way, he learned of Mr. Larkins' interest in custom brewing and contacted him about investing in the project.

Mr. Larkins said he and Mr. Allison plan to make an initial stock offering to investors at $6,000 a share. Renovations are scheduled to begin on the old firehouse next month, he said.

The company's brewing system will be located in one of the three former fire engine bays on the first floor of the building. A home brew supply shop and a beer-tasting room will be located in the second bay, and the third bay will house the bottling operation.

The Firehouse Pub and Grill, as it will be called, will be on the second floor. Under state regulations, microbreweries are permitted to produce 10,000 barrels of beer annually and they may sell the beer off-site.

At the Mount Airy Brewing Co., Mr. Larkins would like to offer three signature beers and a seasonal beer on tap regularly. He's planning to have a pale ale, a red ale and a dark cherry stout.

Alan Christian, a vice president of Diverse Dimensions, the consulting company hired by Carroll County to develop a marketing plan for the downtown areas of the county's municipalities, predicted success for the microbrewery.

"All they have to do is produce high-quality beer and put a decent family-oriented menu in, and they're there," Mr. Christian said.

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