Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - The stately Fitger's Brewing complex has had a rocky existence over its 133 year history: prohibition, threat of demolition for the I-35 extension and bankruptcy as a shopping center.
Those tough times seem to be behind now as Dave Anderson tells us how a long term lease with a key tenant has buoyed spirits through the old building.
Fitger's Brewhouse Brewpub in the old Fitger's Brewery Complex in Duluth has been putting malt, water and yeast together since 1995.
They'll be doing that for another 20 years after signing a new lease with the building's owners.
"That's a 40 year commitment from the Brewhouse and I think that's a great testament to the success of the Brewhouse as an operation but also to Fitger's as a great place for local businesses," said Scott Vesterstein, Fitger's co-owner.
That wasn't always the case.
First, the building was home to Fitger's Brewing Company from 1881 to 1972.
Then, it sat empty and run down until the early 80's.
Next, it opened as a mall and was an instant - flop.
By 1993, tenancy was only 50% and the original investors were bankrupt.
Under new owners Scott Vesterstein and Vlasie Solon, tenancy is now 99% and closing.
"The only space that is available right now will be a new salon and spa and that'll happen in the next three months," said Vesterstein.
The 20 year lease with the Brewhouse is a sign the old days are gone and Fitger's Mall and the Brewhouse can continue expanding.
"This is going to give us the opportunity to get some technology and some efficiency going we haven't had before," said Dave Hoops, Fitger's Brewhouse.
And, Vesterstein and Solon, the holders of the Fitger's name, may be introducing new products to go with their Fitger's coffee line and bottled Fitger's beer.
"You might be in for a surprise shortly because we will be announcing another investment we'll be making in the business here," said Vlasie Solon, Fitger's co-owner.
The owners of the Fitger building feel those investments will last them at least another 20 years with the Brewhouse and all their ventures.
"In 2034, I put it in my day minder that I'm going to come back and talk to them about another 20 year lease," said Vesterstein.
This year, Fitger's Brewhouse expects to produce more than 25-hundred barrels of beer in nearly a hundred varieties.