WINTER GARDEN — In January 2013, on the last day of a family vacation in Colorado, West Orange residents Jared Czachorowski, Andy Sheeter and Robert Scott were hanging out in Oskar Blues Brewery, a local brewery in Colorado. On their plane ride home, they discussed how much fun they had at the brewery that day.
Their flight discussion evolved into a four-hour strategy talk to open a brewery in West Orange — Crooked Can Brewing Co. When they got home, they consulted a real-estate agent and purchased the site at 426 W. Plant St., the dilapidated Shady Hill Garden Apartments, demolished in summer 2014.
“Since then, we’ve pretty much worked night and day to make this dream happen and came up with the market concept,” Czachorowski said.
With construction set to end in March for the grand opening, that concept is becoming a reality in the Plant Street Market, a destination for local, sustainable, all-natural, handmade and artisan products that supermarkets do not sell.
“The building they purchased was way too big for just a taproom, so I said, ‘Let’s get an indoor market below.’” said Suzanne Scott, Robert’s wife and Plant Street Market community and event coordinator. “I pretty much am running the market, and the boys are running the brewery. Jared is overseeing the construction. This has been my dream my entire life. I used to live in Seattle and spent my days at Pike Place Market. We’re trying to bring that more artisan market to the area.”
Suzanne has secured dozens of local vendors for the market, including a wine bar and a tea room, among many familiar local vendors.
“Axum Coffee is going to roast coffee on site,” she said. “They have the location on Plant Street, but they were interested in a place where they could actually roast coffee. Then we have the Winter Garden Juice Bar. They have a small location now, and they’re moving over here. They’re going to (serve) cleansings, juices, cold-pressed, everything that they offer there.”
The market will house Euro Bake World, which has a commissary in Orlando and attends the farmers market. It will have a German baker producing artisan breads, cakes, pastries, croissants and pretzel rolls, Suzanne said.
Another tenant will be David Ramirez Chocolates, which makes genuine Italian gelato and macaroons, in addition to artistic handmade, gourmet chocolates, she said.
“We have a real butcher’s shop going in, The Butcher’s Market,” she said. “It’s the sister company of The Meathouse in Winter Park, but they’re changing their branding over. They make their own sausages; they have cowboy steaks; they have ribs; they have local meats; they have grass-fed. They’re going to be offering anything your heart desires in the meat aspect of it. They also do sliced Boar’s Head; they’re going to be offering sandwiches and a whole deli case, as if you were going into a deli and you wanted to order a sub or something but want to pick up steaks for dinner.”
Other eateries include Five Vibe, a farm-to-table concept with gourmet, high-end meals; The Sacred Olive, which sells handmade pastas and gourmet salts and peppers; Market to Table Cuisine, which specializes in truffle butters, handmade salad dressings, chicken stocks and demi-glaces; The Pop Parlour, a flash-frozen popsicle merchant using organic ingredients for myriad unique flavors; and The Wandering Wonton, which makes gourmet wontons and noodle and rice bowls.
“A little bit of everything is what we’re trying to get,” Suzanne said. “We’re not a food court. We’re going to be a destination that’s also going to be like a grocer. You can run in and grab your bulk coffee, your bread, some vegetables, some meats, some salad dressings. But then, if you want, come on a Saturday or Friday night, stay for a few hours and hang out. We’re going to be very family-orientated: We’re going to have kids’ games, board game nights, art classes, yoga, drum circles, full-on catered events, weddings, corporate events in the brewery — it’s endless.”
So seems the list of vendors, because Suzanne has not met anyone unwilling to join the market, she said. It includes Our Nation’s Creation, an artist shop of handmade USA products; WoodStone Jewelry, where unique, vintage, nature-inspired accessories are handmade with natural materials; Pedal Pushers, a floral events shop; Coconut Clean, a store for all-natural body care items; and The Fast and the Furriest, dog trainers who invented dog products.
“We are going to be absolutely pet-friendly, and we are going to have lots of events with pet owners, bikers, bicyclists, rollerbladers and art,” Suzanne said. “Meeting with all the potential merchants and community, my main focus was to get everyone on the same vision. The passion that everyone has is part of this, to create something like this that really doesn’t exist anywhere on this side of town.”
The market will be open-style, with showcases as small as 4 feet by 9 feet across from shops, open Thursdays through Sundays. It is part of a growing movement getting back to where food originates, its seller and personal touches, she said.
“Then we have a big secret,” Suzanne said. “We can’t tell anyone what’s going in — it’s the restaurant concept that’s going to be new to the area. There’s quite a few of them in New York City, but we haven’t announced what it is yet.”
The overarching concept of the market is to attract visitors to enjoy Winter Garden, a vision the city also sees, she said.
“We wanted to make the building a destination where everyone could come,” she said. “Even if you don’t buy anything, we want to make it a place where you just want to be, this oasis that has everything your heart desires under one roof. Go back to the old roots of being able to bring your kids, do tours and (see) the new heritage museum and the Garden Theatre. We want people to enjoy real Florida, not just Disney World.”
The main focus remains Crooked Can, which will mesh with the family-friendly concept, Suzanne said.
“We’re going to have the all-natural sodas from the tap for the kids, just like in the old days, with birch beer, black cherry, orange creamsicle,” she said. “And if they come in in their sports uniforms, they get their first soda for free.”
These will be made in-house along with four flagship beers, said Kent Waugh, Crooked Can’s award-winning head brewer who was brewmaster at Big River Grille on Disney’s Boardwalk.
“Our pilot batch system is a 26-gallon system to tweak in recipes, grain profiles, hot profiles and the balance of those together, our High Stepper Imperial IPA, to match our logo, McSwagger,” Waugh said. “And then McSwagger’s Own Amber Ale is what we’re going to call his go-to drink. Those two first flagships will be going on the canning line. We’ve already ordered the cans. Those will be on shelves all around town.”
Crooked Can had its first public tasting at a brewers’ event Nov. 22, officially introducing itself to the area.
“We’re not competing — we’re building the community up and being part of it,” Waugh said. “I’ve seen that across the country with the craft beer industry. That’s what the craft beer industry does: not creating competition but enhancing the community, in a sense.”
Building that community will include both cooperation with other local breweries and pairing beers with foods from market vendors, he said.
“A good example of it would be Euro Bake (World), for example, if we did a citrus-kicker IPA (India Pale Ale),” he said. “I’ve talked to the baker about using suspended grains from the beer in his product, and then maybe an orange zest. We might play around with some fresh leaf hops. So you can picture a citrus bread paired with a citrus-style beer, so that combination on different courses working with our local vendors is the greatest part. It’s going to have that festive feeling on a daily basis.”
As for working with other breweries, having more quality breweries helps them all, Waugh said.
“We’ll do collaborations with them, sit down over a pint and say, ‘What do we want to make? Let’s make something cool that we can both put our name on,’” he said. “Then people can have it here or go to their taproom and have that. People might not know about us and vice-versa.”
Crooked Can will grow slowly around its flagships of the popular IPA variety, Waugh said. The focus will be on tinkering with different flavors and hops, to create something new and exciting, and collaborating with locals. For example, Waugh will use hops from an upstart farm in Michigan as one of his main suppliers. The spent grains will go to three local farmers to maximize reuse and dispose of them properly.
The reuse concept inspired the brewers to use cans almost exclusively, along with the benefits of water-based sealant sustaining flavor, light weight, no light penetration and hermetically sealing packages so no oxygen gets in, said Chad Holloway, Waugh’s brewing partner.
“We’re also going to brew a lot of one-offs exclusive to the brewery itself,” Holloway said. “You won’t be able to get them in a can or store. We’re going to be doing a lot of seasonal.”
Waugh said the beers on tap would change often, involving many ingredients and techniques, such as fruit and oak-aging.
“We’ll have all kinds of different fun applications, especially for the craft beer community,” Waugh said. “That’s what’s going to keep them coming back: What’s on tap today? We’re extremely fortunate to have this beautiful brewery that I’ve been dreaming about since the mid-1990s. We couldn’t ask for anything more.”
The mid-1990s was the last time a brewery of this size opened near Orlando, which made Central Florida and Winter Garden due for a new brewery, Holloway said.
“You can see in other cities — Asheville (North Carolina) is a good example of this — the breweries went in and the values started going up after, so much that the breweries can’t even keep the properties anymore,” Holloway said. “That was why a lot of redevelopment projects, as far as breweries go, have been so lucrative. Across the nation we’ve seen this happen, and I think it’s going to be really exciting for Winter Garden.”
With that kind of opportunity, the brewers want to keep Crooked Can perfect.
Waugh said they would keep it spotless because clean breweries succeed.
“If you don’t see Kent and I eating off the floors in there during lunchtime, there’s something wrong,” Holloway said.
With a grain silo, an outdoor beer garden with a service window, 12-15 taps, plans for fermenting classes and a dinner table for up to 40 people, spotlessness will be a tall order. But the hardest part will be ensuring consistency of recipes and ingredients, Waugh said.
The local craft concept of the market adheres to the initial passionate vision of high quality from that flight two years ago, Czachorowski said.
“It’s definitely what our beer’s all about,” he said. “It’s what our building’s all about — we’ve got high-end brick façades and old-school details. We’re paying attention to the traditional neighborhood and urban downtown of Winter Garden and trying to replicate that and be a part of that. Everything we’re doing, from the brewery system we’re buying, to the building, to the furniture we’re going to put in, to the finishes. … We’re creating a place where people can hang out and enjoy a high quality of everything.”
That includes work ethic and values, based on how Waugh and Holloway joined the construction process.
“Here’s how passionate we are: Christmas Eve, we come in and pull all of the metal off of (deteriorated on-site) buildings, reclaim that and then use it inside here, for the taproom,” Waugh said. “You could go to a reclaim warehouse somewhere and buy that, and they’ll charge you a lot for that these days, whereas 15 years ago, they’d give you $100 to take it away. So that kind of stuff really brings the Colorado culture, Colorado being the main craft beer state and environmentally friendly and community-friendly.”
The wisdom and experience of Winter Garden staff helped make a smooth transition from “abandoned problem area” to Plant Street Market, Czachorowski said.
“There’s a reason Winter Garden is the premiere urban traditional area in West Orange County,” he said. “It’s because they care and they really know what they’re doing. I’ve been in development my whole career, and I haven’t worked with a municipality that is as organized and dedicated and passionate for good, smart growth as the team they have here.”
Winter Garden supported the concept as a community asset to jumpstart other developments, he said.
“It was kind of a block for other landowners and this side of the city to develop new projects when you had this eyesore right in the middle of it,” he said. “The city also knows, from a financial standpoint, that it’s not just one set of owners but so many different people and businesses. We got 25 different spaces, so you have the opportunity for 25 new businesses to start, new employment numbers, careers, a whole-production brewery with a canning line and just a small piece of property and a small investment on the city standpoint, to be able to create something much bigger and really benefit this community in jobs and growth.”
• $30,000 in building fee assistance
• $60,000 in façade grants from Community Redevelopment Agency
• $86,000 in streetscape: sidewalks, streetlights, utilities, benches, bike racks, parking
• CROOKED CAN INVESTMENT: $4 million