The first microbrewery in all of Mesa will open this summer in downtown, following an initiative by the city and business owners to develop a more lively Main Street.
Economic development specialists had worked to lure local and out-of-state breweries, only to have the first plan emerge from two Mesa residents for the Desert Eagle Brewing Company.
Co-owner Joe Campbell said he looked across the Valley for a location and decided Mesa beer connoisseurs were underserved.
“It was just a natural fit,” Campbell said. “It’s funny for some odd reason that somebody skipped over Mesa, because it’s probably one of the largest cities that doesn’t have a microbrewery.”
He and partner Jeff Bryant expect to open by July at 150 W. Main St. The 4,000-square-foot establishment will have room for 49 patrons in a tasting room. A beer garden along Main Street will seat about 50 people.
Desert Eagle will start with two or three of its own brews and a small number of other craft beers initially. Campbell said he’ll look into having a neighboring restaurant cater food. He said he wants to focus on beer before he considers branching into serving his own food.
Campbell said he started home brewing shortly after he moved to Mesa in the early 1990s. He runs an airport security firm and said this is a good time to begin a business because the weak economy has resulted in low rental rates and other start-up costs.
He said he knows Main Street businesses will take a hit from Metro light rail construction, which will begin this spring and last three years. But he’s encouraged by new businesses that have opened downtown and thinks light rail will boost an area that has been overlooked.
“I think Mesa is just primed to pop,” Campbell said.
The Downtown Mesa Association and the city have marketed the area to breweries and other deals are still possible, DMA executive director David Short said. He said the public has been increasingly vocal about the lack of a downtown brewery, including through the city’s iMesa initiative that solicited community-improving ideas from the public. A microbrewery was one of the top suggestions, Short noted.
He predicted a brewery will prove popular because so few downtown businesses are open in the evening to cater to Mesa Arts Center patrons or to people who want a more active nightlife in the city. The opening of the Metro light rail line in 2015 or 2016 has the potential to spur new urban developments that will bring more people downtown day and night. Short said successful breweries often become magnets.
“Hopefully it’s going to spur more,” he said. “I don’t think we want to settle for just one.”
Short had previously headed a downtown organization in Fort Collins, Colo., a community of less than 200,000 that’s home to about 10 breweries. Most are centered in downtown.
Short said the nature of a downtown as a gathering place makes microbreweries a good fit. But he said microbreweries can themselves drive a lot of people to an area. He pointed to Four Peaks in Tempe, which is not on a major road.
“Four Peaks is always full and busy. It’s hard to find parking and it isn’t in an area where there are other supporting businesses,” Short said. “That just goes to prove that these things do draw.”
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