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Microbrewery coming to historic plant

BY GENEVIEVE POSTLETHWAITgpostlethwait@paducahsun.com

With a microbrewing license from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau freshly in hand, Paducah developers Ed and Meagan Musselman are one step closer to bringing business back to the historic Paducah Coca-Cola Bottling Plant.

The federal license for Dry Ground Brewing Company, the microbrewery to be housed in the back portion of the plant, is the first and most difficult to obtain of several licenses the Musselmans must secure before the brewery can open its doors. The Musselmans are hopeful, however, that with the federal licensing process done they will make it happen before year's end.

The Musselmans shared this news Saturday with members of the Jackson Purchase Historical Society (JPHS) during a presentation detailing the history and renovation of the Coca-Cola Plant, followed by a tour of the building.

"We've come a long way, but in comparison to what was done before us, it's not much," Ed told the JPHS. "The restoration was something we moved forward on before we knew who the occupants would be, because we wanted to bring it back to its original grandeur. We wanted to dust the building off and re-express Luther Carson's original vision and work."

Murray State Professor of History and JPHS member Dr. Bill Mulligan added later in the presentation, "The man (Carson) wanted to make a statement. This was not just a functional bottling plant. This was a statement about Luther Carson and his vision of Paducah."

The Musselmans purchased the Coca-Cola Plant in early 2013 and got it listed on the National Register of Historic Places by August 2013 for its significance in local industry as well as its architectural significance. Ed said that from the very beginning the building's restoration and preservation have been their top priority. Securing the Coca-Cola Plant status as a historical landmark was the way of ensuring the building, once restored, would be protected for Paducah to enjoy for years to come, he said.

Second only to the restoration of the Coca-Cola Plant, the Musselmans said their biggest goal is to bring something of value to Paducah within the plant's walls.

"We want to bring in something that excites Paducah," Ed said. "Something that Paducah doesn't have. Something as a thank you to the city for supporting us and this building."

Dry Ground Brewing Company will be the first of what they hope will be many such somethings. The microbrewery will be co-owned by Ed and Christian Musselman, with Todd Walton as brew master. With nearly 12 years in the industry, Walton is ready to bring the best in craft beer to Paducah.

"The brewery that we're crafting - including the space, the system, the work flow, the recipes - is something that would be at home in Asheville, N.C.; Portland, Ore.; Boulder, Colo., and other cities that have been appreciating craft beer for years," Walton said in a phone interview. "This will be a full-on welcome to 'Craft Brew USA, Paducah.' I think it's something folks will really enjoy."

After their presentation to the JPHS, the Musselmans led members on a tour, beginning with the back bays where mechanics used to repair bottling machinery and freight vehicles and where Dry Ground is now taking shape. Ed said they will install glass garage doors along the back bays to let in plenty of light and air on nice days. They kept the exposed brick of the walls and Tennessee Steel beams of the tall ceilings in their ongoing effort to preserve the integrity of the bottling plant wherever possible.

Ed said Independence Bank across the street has agreed to share its parking with the Coca-Cola Plant's businesses. The Musselmans and their contractors have planned for parking in the back lot, as well as inside the building between the back bays and the main, two-story portion of the building.

Ed said that any day now they should secure a restaurant to occupy at least some of the 9,000-square-foot, terrazzo-floored space on the first floor. They envision retail and boutique space in the back bays by Dry Ground and possibly a reception hall for events and entertaining upstairs.

The front rooms near the neon-lit rotunda will likely be office space. They will also create a museum to display the Coca-Cola Plant artifacts members of the community have shared with them.

As the Musselmans led members of the JPHS through the future Dry Ground Brewing Company and into what will soon be parking space for customers, he apologized for the mess.

"Everything's dirty right now with all the work we have going on," he said, "but I believe that this is the last bit of dust and dirt we have to get through before everything comes together."

Contact Genevieve Postlethwait, a Paducah Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8651 or at gpostlethwait@paducahsun.com.

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