Could Fitger's new storage space be something more?
It could be a music venue, or perhaps a tap room.
Heck, it could even be the addition to the Historic Arts and Theater district that catalyzes new cultural relevance.
Right now though, it’s just for storage.
“That was the main impetus, it was originally very utilitarian,” said Alex Chocholousek, head brewer at Fitger’s Brewhouse. “Then we started scheming and thinking about it: This could be a very cool multi-use space.”
“It” is a garage located at 207 E. Michigan St., underneath the old Carlson bookstore. The exterior isn’t much to look at: beige-colored bricks and an aged white garage door. The interior is even more modest.
Gray concrete flooring and scattered old equipment inhabit this shell of a structure. Rod Raymond, owner of Fitger’s Brewhouse, originally intended for the garage to hold the brewery’s grain, hops, a few fruiting tanks and various brewing supplies. It’s closer to the complex than their older storage facility, located in western Duluth.
“It’s very bare-bones in here. They just put in the heating and cooling and plumbing,” Chocholousek said. “We actually had to put up the lights.”
After the walls were sealed, they took another look at the place and started considering other options. With a “sky-is-the-limit” mantra, they’re considering a pop-up garage business model: something that would open once or twice a month for concerts, comedy shows and art galas.
“We as a company have always put music and art very highly,” Chocholousek said. “It’s been a big part of our business model and company values.”
Chocholousek said every time they look at big, open spaces like this garage, they consider what things could fill the air. However, none of this can happen yet — both the head brewer and Jodie Cowan, the marketing representative for Fitger’s said there’s a permitting process with the city that has to be approved before they can do anything.
Not to say the garage hasn’t seen some evolution. Keeping in accordance with the art themes of the district, muralist Tom Moriarty has been dressing the walls with different paintings, each a testament to the brewery’s selection.
“The brewer’s garage is intertwined with Fitger’s, so there’s a lot of discussion about making the branding and the art that has gone into a lot of the beers over the years,” Moriarty said. “That’s very iconic and would be represented here.”
Beers such as Starfire Pale Ale, Hempen Ale, Superior Trail IPA and Hoppelujah will have their own murals, with the designs inspired by each beer’s themes. Because the labels were designed by local artists much as Chris Monroe, Terry Glembin, Dave Moreira and Rick Allen, Moriarty wanted to pay tribute to that local touch.
“It’s always fun working with iconic Duluth imagery and paying homage to local artists,” Moriarty said. “It’s been a fun project so far.”