As the Oaklyn microbrewery approaches its fourth anniversary this summer, ownership is planning to open a second location in the former Mr. Roberts Lumber Center in Barrington.
By Matt Skoufalos | January 24, 2020
Less than five years ago, brothers Eli and Taylor Facchinei began converting a 3,000-square-foot corner warehouse in downtown Oaklyn into the space that would become Tonewood Brewing.
Now they’re planning to repeat the process three miles down the road, and at seven times the scale.
On Monday, the Facchineis will present a redevelopment proposal to the Barrington Planning Board that would transform the 20,000 square-foot Mr. Roberts Lumber Center into a second Tonewood Brewing location.
The plan calls for 14,000 square-feet of production space—quadruple that of their Oaklyn brewery—plus 5,000 square-feet of retail space, split among an outdoor beer garden, takeaway counter, and a sprawling, state-of-the-art tasting room. The ambitious project would create a local landmark, 20 to 30 new jobs, and a platform through which the business can greatly expand its production capacity.
Eli Facchinei said the search for an additional location kicked off in 2018, as the brewers realized they were quickly outgrowing the footprint of their West Clinton Avenue space. If they wanted to keep pace with the volume of business they were doing, they’d need another location. When the old lumberyard became available, it seemed “pretty serendipitous for us,” he said.
“The bones of it are perfect for a brewery,” Eli Facchinei said. “It’s been a lumberyard since the 1800s; we thought it would be a great way to preserve the space.
“And it fit within the things that have driven our success at this point,” he said. “It’s centered in a downtown business district, it’s walkable for the people of the town, and it’s right by the highway for distribution, a big thing for us logistically.”
In addition to growing its operations, adding a Barrington location will allow Tonewood to improve the sustainability and longevity of the business. A high-efficiency brewing system, LED lighting, high-quality insulation, and a partial living roof with solar panels are all key elements of the design that will support the eventual transition of the business to a certified B corporation.
Eli Facchinei said those elements are what drive a project of this scale.
“It’ll take less water, less energy, less raw material to produce the same amount of beer we’re producing presently,” Eli Facchinei said. “It’s not a volume goal, it’s how do we do what we’re doing better.
“The more efficient we can make our operations, the better the beer is going to be, and the better stewards of the environment we’ll be,” he said.
The Barrington facility will focus on producing the beers that have become the core Tonewood recipes, like the Fuego New England-style IPA, Freshies pale ale, Revolution Coffee Porter, and Improv double IPA. It will also make it possible for the microbrewery to distribute some of its popular seasonal beers, like the Poolside Mexican-style lager, which had become a tasting-room-only brew given capacity shortages in Oaklyn.
The Barrington facility will sport a 30-barrel brewhouse—twice the volume of the Oaklyn system—and a mix of 30-, 60-, and 90-barrel fermenters. Tonewood is relying on that expanded production to help drive more of its products to the 300 New Jersey restaurants, bars, and liquor stores that retail them.
Importantly, it will also help the brand reach into Philadelphia and surrounding counties in Pennsylvania as well as clientele in North and Central Jersey. However, Eli Facchinei said he’s more focused on “moderate, sustained growth” that will satisfy its existing customers.
“When we opened in Oaklyn, it was a rush,” he said. “With this, we’re really taking our time to make sure that we do it right so we’re not doing it twice.”
Consideration of the retail experience and patron flow throughout the lumberyard has been paramount for Philadelphia architects Bohlin Cywinski Jackson. The architectural firm has worked to unify the multiple buildings onsite into a single vision that supports both the brewery and retail operations there. Eli Facchinei said the Barrington location will retain “the same concept and vibe” as the parent space in Oaklyn, while showcasing production to visitors.
“We really like what we’ve done [in Oaklyn]and people appreciate it,” Eli Facchinei said. “We like having people come to us because they want to come to a brewery, and we want to make it feel as much like a brewery as we possibly can.
“When you walk in the front door, you’ll see the brewhouse, you’ll see the tanks, you’ll hear the condensate pumps and the boiler; you’ll hear the guys working,” he said. “We don’t want it to be a walled-off experience. We want it to be fully immersive.”
In addition to designing with guests in mind, the new facility will be expanded to the benefit of the brew crew. Amenities like locker rooms, shower facilities, and break rooms are all in the new design.
“Everyone here has been grinding it out to get us to this point, so we want to invest in them to create a place that feels like home when they come to work every day,” Eli Facchinei said.
“We truly do have the best team in the industry,” he said. “You can count on them all coming through. Everyone comes every day and gives it their all.”
Tonewood Quality Manager Chelsea Martin said that scaling up the brewery will also allow her to improve the shelf stability and consistency of its product.
Building a state-of-the-art laboratory from the ground up will allow her to more closely monitor microbiological activity and the quality of ingredients coming in.
“A better lab setup is going to make sure it’s the same color, the same flavor, the same alcohol content; things that you need to make happen,” Martin said.
Expanding into the Barrington location will also allow Tonewood to utilize its Oaklyn facility for more interesting and elaborate beer styles.
By leveraging the large-scale production of the new facility to produce its core recipes at volume, Oaklyn will become a place where brewers can exercise creative freedom in wild ales, barrel-aging, and mixed-culture flavor profiles that won’t have to be worked around day-to-day production.
“Right now we’re just doing all we can to keep up with demand for Fuego,” Eli Facchinei said. “Having the [Oaklyn] brew house will free us up to pursue things that we haven’t been able to; ideas that the guys have; innovative ingredients.”
Far from abandoning its Oaklyn roots, Tonewood views the expansion as an opportunity to connect the community that has nurtured its business model with other customers in the Atlantic Avenue downtowns. A planned, multimodal, rails-with-trails path is likely to make that possible in the coming years.
“I think it creates a destination area for people to come, from Philly or further north or south,” Eli Facchinei said.
“The driver of our brand has been our connection to the community,” he said. “We were never going to sacrifice our roots here in Oaklyn to be down there with a retail business. It’s not just about the profits and the money, it’s about the community and the experience we offer people.
“We’re super-happy that the ABC has given us the green light on operating two facilities,” Eli Facchinei said. “It shows that they see the benefit of businesses like ours having a presence, and they’re supporting us in that way.”
Brewery Relations Manager Jake Irving, cousin to Eli and Taylor, said he’s excited to expand the tasting room experience in a new location, the better to support the growth of the business throughout the region. He’s happier to be doing it with his loved ones.
“We’re a family business and brewery,” Irving said. “We took this crazy idea Eli had, and everyone’s put in a lot of hard work. It’s allowed us to grow and make this move, and I just want to step back and appreciate what’s happening.”
“It’s crazy that we’ve grown the business to the point that we’re going to expand to a second location,” Irving said. “We wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of the people who’ve been buying our beer.
“Tonewood’s the wood that’s used to make acoustic instruments, and to be able to create a [brew]space within a lumberyard, that’s stars-aligning stuff,” he said.
Brewer and co-owner Taylor Facchinei echoed those sentiments.
“It’s nice that it’s a family business,” he said. “It’s gratifying to be around everyone every day. And it’s not just family, it’s friends and family. We’ve got a sense of community within the Tonewood group, and it’s awesome that it works. I feel like Barrington’s another town that needs a draw, and I think we’ll help provide that.”
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