With an image in mind, Alex Clark knows what he’s going to do with the former Summerside train-station turned public library.
“I want to live here, in Summerside. I’m trying really hard to make life for myself. And when I would see the old library I knew exactly what should be done with it… A microbrewery is timeless.”
Clark announced he purchased the old heritage building in late July.
The railway station, built in 1927, replaced the previous, inadequate station.
By 1989, the last train left P.E.I. and in 1991 the fate of the structure became a serious concern for the community. With the Rotary Club of Summerside stepping forward, they led the charge to make the building a home for the community’s public library. In 1994, the provincial government acquired the building, leasing it to the Friends of the Rotary Regional Library in 1995, and in April 2000 the Friends purchased the property, with the City of Summerside taking over operational costs in 2003 and later purchasing it in 2005.
“I could open a brewery anywhere, but when the old library became available it seemed like a missed opportunity not to take advantage and develop it properly.
“I’m always scared with heritage properties in how they could be developed. I want to honour its history,” said Clark.
“The building has been gutted of its history by former renovations and bringing it back to exactly the way it was isn’t possible. But I want to create the feeling of the hustle and bustle of a train station, not just put up photos, plaques and artifacts.”
Clark is the owner of Summerside based restaurant, Open Eats, located down the road from the soon to be brewery.
While designing the concept for Open Eats, Clark took his time, working step by step until he found the right feel for the place. He intends to do the same with the brewery.
“I’m going to start with the interior and brew room first. I don’t want people to know we’re in there making beer. I want to build the brand and slowly distribute it while taking in the history of the building.”
With that in mind, Clark has an idea for the exterior, bringing the feel and appearance of a train station to life.
He plans on incorporating a wood clad façade that will be raised and backlit, create a street presence as the building is tucked away, as well as incorporate large garage doors that will open up to outdoor seating and green house.
“I want to give the impression of a train station in Paris with the open glass ceiling, while stonework and lighting will mimic a classic train station. It may not replicated the exact station that was here, but at this point it’s more about the feeling.”
Clark plans to incorporate a restaurant into the building as well. If you walk in through the front door, to the left will be the brewing equipment, across from the door there will be a u-shape taproom bar, which can service the bar and the restaurant. Then to the right there will be restaurant seating and then past that will be the kitchen area. There will be a door for the entrance and exit to outdoor seating along with the large garage doors.
The east end of the building, which faces Water Street, people driving into the downtown will be able to see into brew room through the glass wall façade.
“People adore this train station. And although it was only operating for a short time, it was here for someone’s lifetime. It was here for someone’s generation that’s been captured in time. I hope by displaying it, other people will get inspired to take a risk and go out on a limb to do the same with their own business or heritage building.”