During the past few weeks we’ve gotten the bulk of our construction work underway. After more than two years of planning, designing and chipping away at various parts of the project we are finally reaching the homestretch leading up to opening. The construction crew has been digging trenches for plumbing in the restaurant, building footings in the basement to support our brewing equipment, tapping into the downtown water main and prepping for the next 1,000 things that need to get done before we open in July. Our beer offerings are set, the menu is being finalized and each day we are more and more excited to open the doors and start serving people from all over Des Moines! Thanks for following our progress, more to come!
In the 1950s Walnut St. was the commercial hub in Des Moines. It was the preferred location for shopping, gathering and to be seen. Now it is a major part of the transportation infrastructure of the city, but little else. The vacancy of the Younker’s building, the departure of Aviva and the prohibition of vehicular traffic have done little to help the life of the street. It seems, however, as if this is all about to change. Seeing as we are the newest residents of Walnut St., we have taken a great interest in the upcoming project. Exciting things are ahead, follow the link below to learn more!
From the 1920s through the mid-1940s, The F.W. Fitch Company dominated much of the shampoo industry in the United States. This firm cemented Des Moines’ reputation as a leader for the personal care products industry in the United States. Completed in 1917, the Main Building marks the beginning of the firm as a national manufacturer of personal care products. By the 1920s, the F.W. Fitch Company had a product line of more than a dozen products including, “Mentho-Pep,” a utility personal care product used as an after-shave lotion, mouthwash, or treatment for insect bites and sunburn. The soap plant, top left, built in 1929, allowed the Fitch Co. to begin production on its own line of soap.
By 1945, the firm’s payroll had swelled to 400 workers. Following World War II, however, The F.W. Fitch Co. experienced a steep decline in sales. The loss of contracts with the U.S. Army following the end of the war, substantial construction costs associated with a new plant and the on-going expense to sponsor Fitch’s Bandwagon drained the firm’s cash flow in an unsustainable hemorrhage. The Fitch Co. sold its assets to Grove Laboratories in 1949.
The main building is currently occupied by a wide variety of tenants from artists to entrepreneurs. The Soap Building and the attached Annex were abandoned and in a state of disrepair when the Exile team began looking for a place to call home more than a year ago. There were certainly other locations around Des Moines better suited for a brewery, but none with the history and character of the F.W. Fitch Soap Building. This company helped put Des Moines on the map in the 1930′s and was once a landmark in the city. While Des Moines is no longer striving for recognition, thanks Forbes, we believe that this economically depressed neighborhood can be restored to its former luster. Through a dedication to tradition and quality, Exile Brewing Co. hopes to become synonymous with the city of Des Moines in the same way the Fitch Co. once was. We are proud to call Des Moines home. We hope Des Moines will soon be proud to call us its own.
After having yet another location slip through our fingers we decided to take a drive. It was a beautiful October afternoon and we wanted to see if there were any eye-catching buildings sporting a sign listing a realtor. As we turned north on 15th St. from Martin Luther King South the dilapidated building above caught our eye. Pat Morris, the head chef at Tursi’s Latin King was sitting in the front seat. Pat is the ultimate realist. He had roundly rejected all of the previous sites we considered. ”Oooh my God, can you believe the vermin that must be crawling through this place?!”, “Ugh, the mold here is killing me, no way…”, “This is just bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad, horrible”. These were only a few of the comments we heard during our search for the right location. When I saw the for sale sign on what I would eventually learn was the old Fitch Company Soap Manufacturing building I timidly commented, “That place looks kind of cool…I’ll bet it has high ceilings.” Bob didn’t say a word. Pat took a deep breath and sighed. ”You know…that place actually doesn’t look so bad.” That statement, which barely qualified as a vote of confidence, was all we needed. A non-negative comment from Pat Morris is 1,000 times better than Jim Cramer screaming and slamming the “Buy” button. We took down the realtors numbers and were touring the building less than 48 hrs later.
After more than six weeks at sea Joseph Tursi could see it. The Mother of Exiles standing tall, welcoming her new children with her torch burning bright. It was the first sign of hope Joe had seen since his own mother had left him at the port of Naples many months ago. He was nervous to see her again, and scared to meet his father for the first time, but the site of Lady Liberty greeting the ship as it pulled closer towards the shore dissolved any apprehensions he had about moving to a new land. He saw in her the opportunities awaiting him. He saw that happiness was possible. He had arrived in America.
Joe and countless other exiles obeyed the command given by Lady Liberty and burned bright. They met hardship head on and eventually their struggles gave way to celebration. Our brewery is a tribute to our family’s patriarch and all other immigrants that continue to embrace the American dream. Through a dedication to European tradition and American hard work we make beers that are ideal for any celebration. Full-flavored, easy-drinking, lagers and ales that have a complexity and balance marveled at by any Cicerone and enjoyed by even the most casual of beer drinkers. Wherever it is consumed, the hope is that our beer brings an extra measure of joy to the occasion. We believe Lady Liberty would approve.