Beverage businesses breathe new life into Virginia Metalcrafters building
A winery operation that plans to open a tasting room in Waynesboro this spring is just one of the beverage-based enterprises breathing new life into a historic building. WMRA's Randi B. Hagi reports.
I'm here in the giant, brightly-lit production room at Common Wealth Crush, rows of stainless steel and fiberglass tanks tower overhead, emitting a soft rushing sound as they churn out wine.
BEN JORDAN: We are a multi-producer winery, meaning that we're making wine for different clients, and the idea behind the project was to develop a facility where we could incubate the next generation of Virginia wine.
Ben Jordan is one of the winery's founders.
JORDAN: You're standing here on our crush pad, which was designed to be very flexible for different types of crushing activities, whether we're pressing grapes for grape juice to make white wine, or destemming grapes to put them into tanks for red wine.
Jordan grew up in Swoope, and after moving around the country pursuing a playwriting career, he learned winemaking out in Sonoma County, California, before coming back to Virginia. At Common Wealth Crush, he and his co-founders make wine for eight clients who grow their own or buy local grapes, but lack their own processing facilities. They also produce a line of house wines they plan to offer at a tasting room opening this spring.
JORDAN: Pat's wine is a white wine that's kind of vibrant with acidity, just a very fresh style of white wine. Mine's a little bit rounder, richer, made from a new grape variety called 'chardonnelle,' which is more disease-resistant in our climate.
The whole operation takes up just a fraction of the historic Virginia Metalcrafters building on East Main Street in Waynesboro. On a recent tour, with his dog Birdie bouncing along beside us, Jordan opened a garage door into an enormous factory wing with a sawtooth roof.
[sound of garage door opening]
The property's project manager, Chuck Hall, said they've replaced the roof and the 1,700 panes of glass that make up the room's windows and skylights, among other renovations.
CHUCK HALL: When we came in, it was kind of a mad dash to clean out all the debris and then … really, basically all the infrastructure's been replaced.
A coffee roaster is the next confirmed tenant with plans to rent space in the building.
In its heyday, the facility was nationally known for producing colonial-style home goods.
BILL ECKMAN: Everything that came out of Metalcrafters, as far as the brass and iron, aluminum, bronze, [chuckles] bell metal, white bronze, white brass – was a unique piece.
Bill Eckman's father, Charles Eckman, bought the company in 1953, back when it was called the Rife-Loth Corporation. In addition to decor, they produced stoves and hydraulic rams out of a facility next to the South River. The elder Eckman then bought the East Main Street building a few years later, and expanded the Virginia Metalcrafters operations there, where it was –
ECKMAN: … known best for its association with Colonial Williamsburg. In the '50s, '60s, and '70s, that was a huge – even into the '80s – a huge interior design phenomenon. … If you look at old Southern Livings, they're all full of hardwood furniture and brass candlesticks, brass chandeliers, and that's the kind of stuff Metalcrafters made.
Their ornately designed trivets were also highly sought after – cast iron and bronze objects that you'd rest a hot pot on.
HALL: Talk to anyone in the community – everybody has a story of a relative or somebody they knew that worked here for years.
Hall led us through another part of the labyrinthine building where crews are currently building out an 800-person music venue, called The Foundry – a major expansion of the Basic City Beer Company.
[music playing from boombox, power tools running]
HALL: That's actually, the first room there is going to be the green room for performers.
We popped out into the brewery, and interrupted owner Bart Lanman up on a lift, drilling a hole for an ethernet cord.
The brewery opened in 2016. Lanman walked me through their flagship beers.
[music playing in the background]
BART LANMAN: Our Daily Pilsner, a lager. The Hornig, which is a honey-hued lager.
LANMAN: The 6th Lord, which is a sessionable IPA. And then Bask, which is a double IPA. Hazy-juicy.
The company's name comes from a separate locality, Basic City, that was, well, basically absorbed into Waynesboro in the early 20's, and became the east side of town.
LANMAN: One of the reasons that I think it's such a successful spot is because of what Basic City, Virginia, had going, was the railroads met … East-West, South-North, and that's what we have here with 81 and 64.
And the roads that once dispersed Virginia Metalcrafters products to the rest of the country now bring patrons to the building's new caretakers.
Common Wealth Crush Co-founder Pat Eagan points out the connection to the history of the site.
PAT EAGAN: It's directly in line with what happened in the past as well, with – this has always been home to makers, people who show up and work with their hands every day, and this new generation of tenants is no different. It just happens to be through, at least at this stage, the medium of beverage.
They hope to have the tasting room open to the public by May 1st.