Untapped potential: Drekker plans to open second location in old Fargo building

FARGO-Drekker Brewing Co. had to do its one-year expansion just two weeks after opening.Six months later, the four founders started their three-year expansion. A third expansion this spring to add a canning line boosted capacity by 50 percent, bu...
Jesse Feigum, left, and Mark Bjornstad of Drekker Brewing Co. take a break Friday, Sept. 8, 2017, to look over the brewery's second location, 1632 1st Ave. N., Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO-Drekker Brewing Co. had to do its one-year expansion just two weeks after opening.

Six months later, the four founders started their three-year expansion. A third expansion this spring to add a canning line boosted capacity by 50 percent, but even then, Co-founder and President Mark Bjornstad said those new tanks were immediately oversold.

The Fargo brewery is now gearing up for its most ambitious growth spurt yet-the "we'll never be able to do that" phase that was an impossible dream three years ago.

Drekker announced Wednesday, Sept. 13, that it will open a second location next year just west of downtown Fargo, taking over about 14,000 square feet of an old brick building at 1632 1st Ave. N.

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Bjornstad said it'll allow Drekker to make more beer while also gaining new features like two patios, dedicated food truck parking, an outdoor concert area and an event space.

It also happens to be the very site the founders originally wanted, even if it seemed too rundown and expensive several years ago.

"We really wanted something that has a soul, that has something to it," he said. "We were always interested in a place or a neighborhood or whatever that we could really resonate and build on."

New history

Drekker makes 3,000 barrels of beer each year at its 5,000-square-foot downtown taproom and brewery, which opened in October 2014 in Cityscapes Plaza, 630 1st Ave. N. The company is celebrating its third anniversary this Saturday, Sept. 16.

Even after three expansions, Co-founder Jesse Feigum said there isn't room to meet rising demand to distribute kegs and cans to establishments and stores across the region.

"We have it working very efficiently, but it doesn't give us a lot of options," he said. "With a place like this, the sky's the limit as far as styles of beer and different things you can do."

Bjornstad said the team hasn't decided what it will do with their downtown spot. For now, Drekker will brew and serve beers at both sites, launching its second location with a production capacity of about 5,000 barrels and room to do more.

They'll occupy most of the 20,000-square-foot building that owner Kevin Bartram said is more than 100 years old. One part of the property that he bought a couple years ago dates back to 1883, he said.

Construction is well underway to replace the roof, pour a new concrete floor, add windows that have been boarded up for decades and connect utilities.

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Bjornstad said these modern upgrades will be matched with a focus on the building's original character, with features like exposed brick walls, old wood beams and a heavy fire door becoming central design elements.

Construction should wrap up in the early summer, and Drekker could be open there in the late summer or early fall of 2018. It'll have room for about 300 people and a new event space on the west side of the building that leads out to a patio.

Another patio is planned on the east side, Bjornstad said, and patrons will find a variety of seating options, including a mezzanine level and a horseshoe bar inside.

Bartram, the owner of MBA Architects, will convert the remainder of the building into his house and garage. He already renovated a nearby building at 1620 1st Ave. N., which now houses CrossFit Icehouse as well as warehouse and shop space for his other companies, and another warehouse at 1630 1st Ave. N. will become an office building.

He said he contacted Drekker to ask if they'd want to move in, something Bjornstad was about to do anyway when he got the call.

"I really like their story and the events and the other things that they have there," Bartram said. "I wouldn't have necessarily rented to just anybody."

The building's full history is a bit fuzzy, though photos on file with North Dakota State University’s Archives suggest it was built in the 1880s as shops for Northern Pacific Railroad.

It served as warehouse and industrial space for decades and was a major hub for Smith Inc., a vehicle and equipment manufacturer that took over the property in 1934 until the company went bankrupt in 1967, according to Forum archives. It also was a plant for Northwest Sash and Door Co. before that.

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Bjornstad said the Drekker team is excited to write the next chapter of the building's long history.

"We're still in manufacturing," he said. "It's just a new evolution of manufacturing where people get to come and see the stuff."