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Harmony Brewing Company sets sights on former Little Mexico building

Bear Manor Properties is in negotiations over the purchase of the former Little Mexico location.

/Eric Tank

Underwriting support from:

/Courtesy of Harmony Brewing Company

Harmony Brewing storefront

Harmony Brewing storefront /Eric Tank

Negotiations over the purchase of the 401 Stocking Avenue building that once housed Little Mexico are underway between the current owners and Bear Manor Properties.

If all goes according to schedule, the sale is projected to be finalized by the end of the month. After that, fabricating the brewing equipment would take about six months. The best case scenario for an opening would date would be sometime next fall or early winter, say Bear Manor representatives.

Bear Manor Properties is owned and operated by siblings Heather Van Dyke-Titus, Barry Van Dyke and Jackson Van Dyke. 2014 marks the company's 10th year in business.

With capacity maxed out at Harmony Brewing and the resurgence of entrepreneurial investment in the Stockbridge neighborhood, the decision to purchase the building makes sense, says Heather Van Dyke.

"It's a great opportunity to be in a neighborhood where a lot of cool things have been happening and are starting to happen again," says Heather Van Dyke.

Harmony has exhausted its search for expansion in Eastown but assures patrons that they are not closing or moving the Eastown location, which has gained a reputation for good beer and pizza.

"We're not moving. We're not shutting this place down and then going to the bigger location. There's going to be two places. This place is going to stay as is. Anything that we do with this new project is only going to improve what we're doing here. We want people to know that Harmony in Eastown is staying," says Heather Van Dyke.

Before Little Mexico made the Bridge and Stocking intersection a popular dining destination, the building was home to the Rauser Sausage Factory.

"We're taking the idea of the sausage factory and that's going to inform our concept of the place," says Heather Van Dyke.

What exactly that will look like is yet to be determined. But Barry Van Dyke envisions casual dining with an emphasis on craft product. The menu will focus on beer, sausage, vegan sausage, possible gluten free options and house made breads. The buildings' three kitchens allow for more variety and the brew room alone is about the size of the entire Harmony Brewing operation on Lake Drive.

"It's going to give us a chance to do some brand new stuff that we haven't been able to do," says Barry Van Dyke. "We really want to look into doing some lagering and doing some more barrel aged type of things and cask aged stuff. So it's really going to open up our ability to be more creative with less restrictions on our beers."

"One of our ideas is to go over to the West Side and brew the IPAs  and Rye PAs and some of the big sellers that we have on a much larger system. And we could transport them across town. All the specialty stuff will still be brewed here in Eastown and the big mainstays will be brewed on the West Side," says Barry Van Dyke.

The Van Dykes have already met with various neighborhood and business associations from the West Side and "the individuals that we've talked to have been nothing but welcoming and supportive," says Heather Van Dyke.

Bear Manor first started to acquire single family homes in Heritage Hill before investing in commercial real estate on Wealthy street in the East Hills neighborhood. The buildings housing the Meanwhile Bar, Electric Cheetah and Brick Road Pizza are all owned and were renovated by Bear Manor. In 2012 the company purchased 1551 Lake Drive in Eastown with the intention of operating a brew pub.

"After we did the Electric Cheetah, which was our last project, we decided that we really wanted to get into the business of running the restaurant. Not just doing the building. When we had the opportunity to buy the building; me my brother and sister did most of the renovations ourselves but also built the business that was going to fit with it," says Barry Van Dyke.

Little Mexico, a West Side staple since the late sixties, burned down in 2008. The building was reconstructed and resumed business until closing in March of last year.

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