Pop-up alchemy: The Creamery opens in Kennett Square
06/07/2016 11:36AM ● Published by Richard Gaw
On the afternoon after the opening weekend of the Creamery beer garden in Kennett Square, as contractors floated in and out of what once served as the former headquarters of the Eastern Condensed Milk Company on Birch Street, general manager Sandra Mulry sat at a picnic table and quietly – she would say exhaustively – reflected on the start of what may become Chester County's most one-of-a-kind destination.
“Saturday night may have been the greatest thing I've ever seen in Kennett Square,” she said, referring to the three-day kick-off that drew hundreds of Millenials, Gen-Xers, beer connoisseurs and families. “Something happened. We really didn't know what to expect, and were overwhelmed by the number of people. We always conceived it as a community venture, and the support was amazing, and the feedback has been tremendous.”
For three consecutive days last weekend, the space was filled with lawn games, live music, food and beer and wine, and a laid-back feeling of camaraderie that pop-up beer gardens have become known for.
The original seeds of the idea to begin the Creamery date back to May of last year, when Mulry and her husband visited Washington, D.C. with Mike Bontrager and his wife, Dot. Bontrager, the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Chatham Financial, began to talk about ideas on how to develop business along Birch Street, wrapped around his purchase of the building in 2011. Over the next several months, Mulry – Bontrager's real estate representative – began to look at the development of the building as the perfect business catalyst for what had become an underutilized industrial section of town.
“We wanted to give a nod to the building's past and make it a community gathering space, and I saw that they were beginning to do it well in Philadelphia with its many pop-up gardens,” Mulry said. “We began to see that developers were taking derelict properties and breathing life back into them, and all of a sudden, they became a destination. We decided to explore what works here.”
Working with the Philadelphia-based Groundswell Design Group, Bontrager, Mulry and contractors took several months to demo the complicated infrastructure. Slowly, they unearthed the rustic bones of the building, combining the sweeping berms of plantings and birch trees, while leveraging the industrial steel and metal of the building's original framework.
Although the Creamery will feature a wide variety of cocktails, wine, beer and menu items, its identity and purpose will be to serve as a vehicle for musicians, artists and artisans to showcase their talents, coupled with an ever-changing variety of events dotting its social calendar. Although the Creamery's social media marketing will clue interested parties on what's going on from week to week, it will also rely on the impromptu, seat-of-the pants alchemy that a venture of this kind represents.
“We created this space for events,” Mulry said. “We're going to have music here. We want to do programming. We are doing yoga here on Saturdays. We're developing childrens' art programs. When a community gets together, the world shows up, and Kennett Square does 'community' so well.”
Mulry credited the Creamery's owner Bontrager with bringing the concept to fruition.
“Mike and Dot are behind so much of the good of this community, and I don't know anyone else who would pour so much investment into something merely to bring the community together,” she said. “I think of the Creamery as a platform to let people know about all of the things we can do together, to have a place where we can share friends and art and culture.
“It's not about profit. It's about community. It's about history. It's about economic development. It's about re-use, re-cycle and re-imagine.”
The license to operate the Creamery was granted by Kennett Borough council and extends to the end of 2016. The Essentials Band will be performing on June 10, beginning at 7 p.m. Saturday morning yoga, hosted by Yoga Underground, will begin on June 11 at 11:30 a.m. The Creamery will be open Thursdays through Sundays, through Sept. 30. For more information, visit www.kennettcreamery.com, or visit its Facebook page.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.