By Richard L. Gaw
On the uncompleted rocky quagmire of what will eventually become 79 luxury townhomes on the edge of downtown Kennett Square known as Magnolia Place, three dozen dignitaries and beer lovers came out on Nov. 1 to offer a collective and welcoming hand to the Victory Brewing Company, which is about to begin work on what will be an important cornerstone of that complex.
State Sen. Dominic Pileggi and State Rep. Christopher Ross were among the many developers and local legislators who lifted ceremonial shovels during the announcement that Victory -- the nation's 26th-largest craft brewery and headquartered in Downingtown -- will occupy an 8,234-square-foot location at the bottom floor of a four-story apartment building on the corner of West Cypress Street and Mill Road beginning in 2014. Called Victory at Magnolia, the facility is expected to begin construction in the next month. When completed, it will accommodate a 250-seat restaurant with space for outdoor dining and a five-barrel brew house that will serve site-specific beers, as well as a wide variety of world-class ales and lagers.
"It's absolutely thrilling, and I'm not even sure that it's still true some mornings when I wake up," said Matthew Krueger, Victory's vice president of operations. "It's an overwhelming feeling of joy and pride to have an opportunity to be able to quarterback Victory's expansion into Kennett Square."
The idea to expand Victory to Kennett Square was built on a solid foundation of research and conversation. Krueger said he saw a void in the brew pub phenomenon in the southern Chester County area, as opposed to a business boom in Delaware. Although many of his colleagues suggested that Victory expand into a college town, Krueger was attracted to the idea that Victory should expand into a town whose demographic closely resembles the one at its headquarters in Downingtown. He then spent more than a month meeting with several architects of the Kennett Square revival
"I quickly realized that it wasn't going to just be about bringing more Victory Beer to an area," Krueger said. "It was a sense of instantaneous welcoming, a sense of home. It really adds a lot of gravity to the responsibilities we have to get it right. There's something about the philosophical angle of a craft beer consumer. They don't want to sit in front of 97 TVs. They want to sit down with a great beer and great company."
The entire project is being developed by Kennett Square Realty, a second-generation real estate acquisition, development and management company. "The whole project started eight years when the original plan was unveiled," said Mike Pia, Jr., developer with the Kennett Realty Group. "We have been working with Victory for the past 18 months on getting a deal together. Our main street speaks for itself, with the new tenants and the low vacancy rate. It shows that people want to be in town."
Mary Hutchins of Historic Kennett Square said that the development of the Victory location will factor into an economic development plan that will continue to design Kennett Square as a walkable community.
"As Victory opens up, it creates opportunities for everyone between here and the main part of town," said Hutchins, who linked the new Victory with the recent opening of the Market at Liberty Place and the continuing Cypress Street widening project. "We're not just creating an economic opportunity center, we're helping to build a community."
Just beyond the red, white and blue Victory tents used for the celebration, the first three townhomes for Magnolia Place are nearing completion. All three are expected to be occupied as early as next month.
"We're not catering to a specific demographic, but so far those who are most interested have been active adults, as well as a lot of the younger people, who like the fact that the Victory Brewing Company is going to be here," said Eddie Riggin of RE/MAX of Wilmington, who, along with his wife Nancy, is coordinating the sales end of Magnolia Place. "The fact that they can walk into town, and that they'll only be five blocks from the Market at Liberty Place, are huge advantages of living here. Kennett Square is going to grow in an even more awesome way."