Local brewery cancels Fairborn fire station brewpub project

Renovation costs turned out to be too expensive; Hairless Hare still looking to grow

Hairless Hare Brewery in Vandalia has canceled plans to open a second location in a historic former Fairborn fire station, citing high costs.

In early August, when the project was first announced, Fairborn officials described it as a “big win” for the city and its continuing efforts to revitalize the Broad Street area of downtown. Fairborn officials have tried for several years to come up with a viable re-use for the historic structure at 29 N. Broad St.

PHOTO GALLERY: Inside Fairborn’s old Fire Station #1

"The renovation of the firehouse became too expensive," Hairless Hare co-owner Mike Legg told this news outlet in an email Wednesday that was later posted on the Hairless Hare Brewery Facebook page. "It was clear once the final numbers came in that it was not commercially viable for us to invest in that building and that Fairborn would have to decide if the historic factor of the building was worth the money spent. If so we would excited to put a brewery in there."

EARLIER COVERAGE: Local brewery targets historic Fairborn firehouse for 2nd location

“They voted to move forward but were unable to finance the project for that cost. So the Fairborn project is canceled. We just found this out about a week ago.”

The structure has a long, rich history. It was built as a schoolhouse in 1884 in what was then the village of Fairfield, replacing three smaller schools in adjoining Bath Township. It later served as a city hall and fire station for Fairfield, and after Fairfield merged with Osborn to become Fairborn in 1950, the building was dedicated as a firehouse and was renamed Fairborn Fire Station #1.

RELATED: The story of Fairborn’s first fire station

The fire station was shut down in 2007 when the new Fairborn Fire Department Station #1 was completed four blocks away.

Michael Gebhart, Fairborn’s assistant city manager, said in August that city officials concluded a few years ago that a brewpub would be a strong option for potential re-use of the historic building.

RELATED: Hairless Hare brewery snags 2 national gold medals

“Hairless Hare is an award-winning brewery, and their business plan was spot-on and jelled well with the re-use of the building,” Gebhart said at the time. “This is a big win for us to bring in such a high-quality brewery and to keep the historic firehouse the way it is. … It’s the best fit for them, and it’s the best fit for the community.”

Initial plans had called for the Hairless Hare Olde Firehouse Brewery to open as early as this spring, with a 100-seat taproom and kitchen upstairs, and the brewery on the first floor.

On Thursday, after Hairless Hare stepped back from their plans, Gebhart said: “The Hairless Hare is a great business with a great product and great people, and we are disappointed that we won’t be able to add them to our roster of destination businesses in our downtown corridor, but we understand their decision to opt for a more cost-effective space.

“We are currently evaluating our options for creating a positive path forward for the revelopment of the Fairborn firehouse building.”

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Hairless Hare opened its Vandalia brewery at 738 W. National Road in 2013. Earlier this year, the brewery scored four medals, including two gold medals, for its beers in the 2017 Alltech Commonwealth Cup, an international beer competition based in Lexington, Ky.

The Vandalia brewery’s owners are still pondering their next move.

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“We are just setting back and looking at the industry and the direction we want to go,” Legg said Wednesday. “One thing is clear, we have way more demand than beer, so production growth has to be part of the next stage for us.”

In the brewery’s Facebook post, Hairless Hare co-founder Legg added: “Cheers to the citizens of Fairborn for the amazing welcome they offered us and to their continued success.”

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