By MARISSA DECHANT
Franklin residents can expect fuller downtown storefronts this summer, abuzz with food and drink destinations new to the area’s offerings.
Sounds of construction have been filling the 1200 block of Liberty Street as the town reawakens and starts to usher in such businesses as a brewery and bakery and events like the annual May Garden Mart kicking off this weekend.
TrAils to Ales Brewery, set to open at 1270-72 Liberty St., is busy this month with continued renovations and the start of its in-house beer brewing process.
Standing beside bags of barley and the brew room’s massive kettles and fermenters, Ballard said his six-person team has put in a tremendous amount of time in the past six months to ready the brewery for a tentative opening date of June 1.
But the dream of opening a microbrewery spans years back, with Ballard and some of the men from the management team coming up with the idea during their weekly runs on local recreational trails.
The years of discussions fell together in a week early last year, and TrAils to Ales officially formed on July 18. The brewery is located in the former office spaces of UPMC and attorney Wayne Hundertmark.
Work has involved stripping the 150-year-old building interior back to its original state. Ballard said 13 tons of plaster was removed to reveal brick walls, and the hardwood flooring and tin ceilings have been recovered as well.
The brewery’s bar runs almost the entire length of the room, and other additions include a kitchen and brick pizza oven and an overhead garage door that resembles window pane glass and can open out onto the sidewalk in warm weather conditions.
TrAils to Ales brewer Justin Dudek has been on the job the past several weeks, creating a chocolate stout and a red ale to be the first of six to eight craft beers the brewery will offer. Additional beverages will include a cider and a nonalcoholic root beer.
Dudek brings an accomplished past to his new job, having worked previously at Voodoo Brewery in Meadville and The Blue Canoe Brewery in Titusville. He said he started as a home brewer before becoming a professional 11 years ago.
The brewery will offer a small food menu with items to include pizza and flatbreads, and live musical entertainment and trivia nights are on tap, Ballard said.
The brewery has made the Franklin community its focus, from hiring local businesses for construction and design work to asking for public feedback on names for its brews. So far, names include Mudpuppy Milk Chocolate Stout, Liberty Street Lager and Twisted Trails IPA.
Ballard said the brewery has sold all 50 of its lifetime mug club memberships and has so far sold 40 of its annual memberships.
“I have not had anything but positive comments about the place,” Ballard said. “The city and community have been good to us.”
Ballard made note of several interesting decor pieces in the brewery, which will include bar foot rails made of railroad tracks from Franklin Industries and the bicycle of Jim Holden, a prominent Franklin man and bike enthusiast who died in 2013.
The atmosphere will be family friendly, Ballard said, and the brewery will have a “pay it forward wall,” where customers can purchase beverages for other individuals in advance.
Several doors down from TrAils to Ales is R Bandana Winery, having relocated from 309 13th St. to 1276 Liberty St. Friday. The business is celebrating with a grand opening today from noon to midnight.
“You couldn’t do better than that. To have (R Bandana Winery) next to us is perfect,” said Ballard.
The winery opened in Franklin last Applefest and is now housed in the former location of Sportsworld.
R Bandana relocated due to its popularity and now offers four times the seating space of its original location, said owner Bob Shawgo.
“There are 116 seats available and a sound stage. We went over really well at the other place and it took us all by surprise,” said Shawgo.
R Bandana Winery originally opened in Leeper in 2012, and also has a Pittsburgh location in the works.
Franklin will also see the opening of a bakery in July at 1243 Liberty St.
Sweet Euphoria Bake Shoppe, owned by Jenny Seelbaugh, will offer an array of breads and baked goods.
Seelbaugh opened her first bakery in Clarion last summer.
Another food-related business is looking to open at the former location of Linda Lou’s restaurant at the intersection of 13th and Eagle streets. No details are yet available as to the business’ offerings or an opening date.
No movement has been made on the few vacant storefronts remaining downtown, like the former Mandy’s Gift Boutique at 1242 Liberty St., said Deb Eckleberger, director of Franklin Industrial & Commercial Development Authority.
“I can say there is activity for the downtown – springtime does bring that,” she said. “We’re excited about all the energy.”