Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bringing back iconic city/regional food and beverage brands as an element of revitalization

Baltimore has National Bohemian Beer, Detroit has/had Stroh's Beer, Kowalski Polish Sausage, Sanders baked goods, Faygo soda--called pop in Michigan, Vernors, a spicy ginger soda (at their plant only, they produced a chocolate version that you could get a sample of on tours of the bottling facility).

I still miss the homey Bill Knapp's Restaurants--great fried chicken and chocolate cake--which were headquartered in Michigan but were in other Midwest states.   And I miss peppermint ice cream from the long defunct Cloverdale Dairy once based in the Detroit area.

The Big Boy restaurants are but a ghost of what they once were--at one time there were regional franchises with large groups of restaurants all around the country.

DC had Senate Beer brewed by the Heurich Brewery and for a time in the 1990s, a descendent, Gary Heurich, produced and distributed a version of the firm's beer as Old Heurich.  High's was a local dairy store that has long since been absorbed into 7-11.  DGS, District Grocery Stores, was a group of individually owned corner stores sharing common branding, purchasing, and marketing.

Marshall Fields Department Store was known for its Frango chocolate mint candies.  California was known for Nesbitt's orange soda. New England and the South had regional soda brands. Etc.

As food and drink companies became national companies -- wrt beer this was abetted by Prohibition, which drove many companies out of business and unable to restart production after Prohibition was repealed -- many regional brands disappeared. Some remain. You have Duke Mayonnaise in parts of the South, Blue Bell is the ice cream of Texas, etc.

Climax soda billboard on the side of a building in Richmond.  Vintage photo: Valentine Richmond History Center.

Two different efforts in Richmond aim to revive an old soda brand, Climax pale dry ginger ale ("Couple wants to relaunch Richmond's iconic soda brand and create a destination for food and beverage in former grocery store building," Richmond Times-Dispatch) and Richbrau beer ("The return of Richbrau: Local broker plans to bring back an iconic Richmond beer").

In DC, when I had some concepts for making a bigger and better City Museum, one of my ideas was to try to license the "Hot Shoppes" Restaurant brand from Marriott Corporation to serve as the museum's restaurant.

From the soda article:
Climax Beverage would be just one component in a multifaceted redevelopment of the former supermarket space, which opened in 1957 with an arched roof made of California cedar and huge plate glass entrance windows.

The Hilds are thinking of turning the building and nearby surrounding area — they have an additional adjacent block under contract to purchase — into a destination space for food and beverage purveyors.

The company used to have a neon billboard at Richmond's Belle Isle recreation facility. 
The concept would be similar to a food hall, often found in many European cities and becoming popular in cities in the United States, that would have a variety of food vendors, restaurants, breweries, distilleries, wineries, and produce and seafood purveyors.

“We want to create a destination point,” Hild said, adding that the food hall could be similar in concept to Union Market in Washington, D.C.

“We’re thinking of an old, old city market where you have various food vendors and food and drink all in one place that complement one another,” he said. “We are not trying to create a traditional grocery store. We don’t think that is a recipe for success.”
I think locally relevant food and drink brands are an interesting element to add to food-related revitalization efforts, the creation of market districts, food business incubators, etc.

Interestingly, while these are two separate efforts, it turns out that Climax soda was produced by the same company that produced Richbrau beers.

Still, the failed Old Heurich demonstrates this isn't an easy task.  The issue is whether or not you focus on producing and selling the item in your own facilities, versus trying to recreate and distribute a product that is sold by others.

Maybe if Gary Heurich created a brew pub and used that as the primary or at least the initial distribution site, rather than bottling for sale in stores and beer as kegs for restaurants, it would have been easier to develop a more sustainable business model.

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At 1:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Gary Heurich also did not make his beer in DC which was silly. DC Brau has a different approach- which seems to have worked. They have a brewery right in REAL DC and you see their beer all over DC in 6 packs, restaurants, etc.You have a really great point here. Interesting to see that a new Little Tavern is opening over on H street NE.


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