By Clare DiFrisco
It’s a little hard to answer the questions – and they comes up often! – of what made us do it? And they’re great questions. When you consider that my husband Don, former CEO of a high-tech surveillance company and real estate investor, and I, a business consultant for the last 16 years, made the decision to buy and renovate a 120 year old big, blue building across the tracks.
Why this building? Why here?? Why a brewery???
We have lived in Florida since 2001 and about 5 years ago, made our home in the Space Coast. Melbourne is a great town with a lot of diversity and character, new and old, natural and unpretentious, and has so much to enjoy. And yet, our downtown area – when we first became familiar with it – invoked more feelings of what could be instead of what it was.
Having renovated twenty or so homes in the past, Don and I stared at the different buildings, the curves of the street, the gallery walkways, the hill up from the water and any time we were there, ended up talking about the exciting possibilities of contributing to the revival of our own downtown.
When Don closed his company in 2014, being a serial entrepreneur, he was very quickly itching for a new venture. We discussed and explored a lot of ideas, but nothing quite had the oomph we were looking for. That is, until we realized what was right in front of us. I mean, literally…across the table…eating a steak.
Our nephew (nephew-in-law, really, but do we really need to spell that out?), Andy Pinkerton, had been managing a local restaurant brewery for the past 12 years and, being extremely talented, hard-working and ambitious, was looking for more. Don, eager to do something really different and challenging (I mean he’s an Army Veteran who has jumped out of 200 airplanes – the guy wanted a challenge!) put these ideas together.
It wasn’t long before we had realized that we had the whole team we needed right in our tight circle. In addition to Don and his real estate expertise and Andy with his brewery experience, Todd Furbeck, our Master Brewer had been working with Andy for 8 years. Jimmy DiFrisco was already highly experienced in construction and had been wanting to advance his skills in brewing beer. And to round out this team, Jonathan DiFrisco, who had been working as a Data Analyst in Los Angeles, had been looking for an entrepreneurial venture that would give him the opportunity to participate in a company start up. Did this team have what it would take to really do it? To start a new brewery from scratch? Hell yeah!!
But where? Rent or Buy? New or Old? Big or Small? These were no small decisions. But we made them as a team. Don had talked many times about this building for sale in downtown Melbourne, you know…the old Christmas Cottage! But it was certainly too big, too much work, too risky. We decided to employ a structured, logical approach and as a team were actually a little shocked when all arrows pointed to Big Blue…the old Christmas Cottage.
And we were so excited about the opportunity to revive this gorgeous old building and contribute to the dynamic future of Historic Downtown Melbourne. Our vision was to preserve as much of the building’s history as we could, to honor the rich history of Melbourne, and to bring to life the character of all those that worked, shopped and played in this building and town before us.
We purchased the the building in June of 2015 and the core team spent the next year putting aside their individual skills and became construction workers. They worked non-stop every day. Every hot, humid, sticky, wet, rainy, no-electricity-havin’, port-a-potty-goin’ day. Revitalization doesn’t happen without some struggle, but it was never an option to give up. In June of 2016, we expanded our team with a whole new and most amazing crew and we were ready to serve our customers – our community.
Today, Downtown Melbourne is experiencing an exciting revival with total of 12 new businesses opened in the last year. We hope that you’ll stop by this holiday season and raise a glass to Melbourne. Because Downtown matters. It says a lot about the vitality, the future and the people of our community. Cheers!
To learn more about Hell n Blazes please visit: http://www.hellnblazesbrewing.com/