June 26, 2018
The Soda Plant in Burlington's South End will return to its original use — as a beverage-production center — in coming months, as several beverage-related businesses move into the former ReSOURCE space at 266 Pine Street. Landlord and project developer Steve Conant said on Monday that initial tenants for the 20,000-square-foot building include Brio Coffeeworks, Tomgirl Juice, Shacksbury cider with ZAFA Wines, and [VSFA member] Alice & the Magician.
Two of the businesses — Tomgirl and Brio — are relocating from elsewhere in the neighborhood. Shacksbury, based in Vergennes, will do some fermenting, educational demos and other projects in Burlington, according to Conant.
The project has "far exceeded my expectations for synergy and the potential it could bring to the South End," Conant said. He hopes some of the businesses will be in place in time for the South End Art Hop in early September, during which the Soda Plant is a popular stop.
"They will innovate to one another's advantage," Conant said of the makers who will occupy the building, "and share a clientele that will bring unexpected serendipity."
Founder and owner of a neighboring business, Conant Metal & Light(formerly Conant Custom Brass), Conant has worked as a maker and entrepreneur on Pine Street since the early 1980s. He purchased the Soda Plant building 20 years ago and leased a large portion of it to ReSOURCE until the nonprofit moved to Williston last winter.
Now, following a vision he's had for many years, Conant is renovating the space for new use with the help of Burlington's Duncan•Wisniewski Architecture. (Co-owner Michael Wisniewski's sons, Sam and Aaron, own Alice & the Magician, which creates aromatics for beverages.)
"I believe the South End is amazing ... and I always thought I was going to fill [the building] with makers," Conant said. "There are only a few large, industrial buildings here, and I feel very strongly that those buildings should be supporting innovation and entrepreneurship — and building the creative economy in the South End."
Brio Coffeeworks, currently located on Pine Street about a mile south of the Soda Plant, will have more space for its open roastery there and will build a "more proper tasting bar," co-owner Magda Van Dusen said.
"What we're excited about is being co-located in an awesome community of businesses," she said. "The building at large will be a hub for the community."
As part of his plan, Conant envisions a Williston-based company, [VSFA member] Venetian Beverages, establishing its bottling line on the ground floor of the building. The ginger ale manufacturer is owned by Justin Bunnell, the great-great-grandson of Michael Dorn, the soda maker who opened M. & F.C. Dorn Co. on Pine Street a century ago. Bunnell, who uses a recipe inspired by his ancestor, said he's interested and has discussed with Conant the possibility of joining the collection of businesses at the Soda Plant.
"It's in my blood to be an entrepreneur, and Vermont right now has that same wave of manufacturing that was part of Vermont 100 years ago," Bunnell said. "It's coming back with all these new brands made by Vermonters, which is super cool. It's kind of neat that I could be part of that history repeating itself."