Penguin City Beer Will Invest $3.7M in Republic Warehouse

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Penguin City Brewing Co. closed on the former Republic warehouse at 460 E. Federal St. downtown, where the company looks to relocate its brewing operations and open a taproom/restaurant, event center and rental space.

Penguin City closed on the 32,704-square-foot property Monday for $575,000, said co-owner Aspasia Lyras-Bernacki. When initially looking for properties, she and co-owner Richard Bernacki were concerned about not finding something big enough and needing to add on, she said.

However, with 5,120 square feet of office space and 27,584 square feet of warehouse space, the Republic warehouse offers “plenty of room for us to grow,” Lyras-Bernacki said. The company looks to invest $3.7 million into the renovation of the property.

“The Republic warehouse gives us the room to add more tanks as we continue to grow and distribute more,” she said. “It still hasn’t quite settled in that this is ours. We have been working nonstop since August of 2018 looking for our forever home, and we knew Penguin City had to be in the heart of the city.

“When our realtor, Lisa Resnick, of Burgan Real Estate, told us about this property, we knew this was it when we walked through the door,” she added.

Having the entire production line and expansions under one roof will allow the company to expand its brand offerings and streamline its distribution process, added Michael Pontikos, Penguin City’s brand manager. “We knew this was where we wanted to be, right in the heart of the Mahoning Valley.”

The company is considering installing a 20-barrel brew house plus fermentation and conditioning tanks by Deutsche Beverage Technology of Charlotte, N.C., Richard Bernacki said. Currently, Penguin City brews some 120 barrels monthly between its location in the B&O Station Banquet Hall and Paladin Brewing in Austintown.

“With the new system we’ll be able to output much more product, oversee every process from start to finish and do it with a considerable increase in efficiency,” Bernacki said. “This will help us pursue distributors in the states of Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. In addition, we’ll have a smaller pilot system which will allow for dialing in new recipes and experimental brews for the taproom.”

In 1884, the property was first developed as a stable, saloon, wagon shop and lumber yard, according to a company press release. Over the years, it has been a hotel, restaurant, billiards parlor, blacksmith shop, candy shop, steel and iron fabricators and steel warehouse.

In March 2000, it was purchased by Republic/Construction Systems Distributors Inc. for $935,000, according to documents on the Mahoning County Auditor website. Before then, it had been owned by Bertok Enterprises since 1992.

“We definitely want to showcase the rich history of the property when we design the taproom and will be getting in touch with Mahoning Valley Historical Society to help us with that” Lyras-Bernacki said.

The $3.7 million renovation will be done in phases, with the Phase I – the brewery and taproom – set to be finished and open by summer 2021, Lyras-Bernacki said. The company is currently looking for chefs for Phase II, which will be the restaurant and event center.

The project will be funded through private loans and grants. Penguin City is working with First-Ward Councilman Julius Oliver and Nikki Posterli, the city’s director of community planning and economic development, as well as Mayor Jamael Tito Brown’s chief of staff, for assistance.

“Councilman Oliver has been extremely helpful and incredibly supportive since he learned about the project. We look forward to working with him,” Lyras-Bernacki said. The company also thanks Valley EDP, Burgan’s Resnick, Team NEO, JobsOhio and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

The announcement comes as the Youngstown Flea looks to host its first event this weekend in its new location at 365 E. Boardman St. Lyras-Bernacki says she’s already spoken to the Flea’s founder and owner, Derrick McDowell, about collaborating on making that area of downtown a destination.

“I think that would be such a great example about what can happen when businesses help each other,” she said.

The company is also ramping up its distribution. Lyras-Bernacki says it’s closing in on a contract in West Virginia, and over the winter, “we’ll be looking into Ohio distribution companies.”

Currently, Penguin City employs nine because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but will employ 19 when the first phase is open, she said. Over three years, the company looks to employ more than 40.

“We are hoping this can be a wonderful addition to all the great things happening in Downtown Youngstown,” Lyras-Bernacki said. “We always said from the beginning, Penguin City Beer is for our Valley, and we hope the City of Youngstown sees this and knows that we are working towards expanding and creating jobs. We want to make our city proud!”

Pictured: Penguin City Brewing Co. is a family affair. The entire ownership includes George Lyras, John Grillis, Richard Bernacki, Aspasia Lyras-Bernacki, Louis Lyras, Nick Lyras and Michael Pontikos. Louis is Aspasia’s father, and George and Nick are her brothers.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.