17 Years: Our Home in Downingtown

My mom has yet to visit our Parkesburg facility, but has expressed her interest and pride in the rising tanks and beautiful plans. This is in stark contrast to her response when she first visited our Downingtown location before we officially called it home. It was probably late in the spring of 1994 when she and my dad pulled up to the empty building in their big blue Buick. She never got out of the car to enter the building; she merely sat there and cried. I doubt her fear and concern for my future would have been erased by a tour of the dark, creepy facility. What with the vestiges of dried soup production and bagged pet food being stored by a current tenant there, the place was apparently quite popular with vermin.

But myself, my dad, Ron and his family had a vision for the rejected building and pressed on to make it the bright, boisterous place that has been so enjoyed by many, many families over these last 17 years. So, today, with so much news spewing from us regarding our second brewery, I want to reflect on our true home of Downingtown and some of the family ties that have made it so dear to us.

Granted, it’s anecdotal and unconfirmed, but the street our building was built on was named after a family business, Acorn Iron & Supply, a Philadelphia based operation begun by the Tabas family. Dan Tabas and his family built the fieldstone and steel buildings we inhabit today in Downingtown. It was sometime after 1945 that he decided to “…reconstruct these buildings on the same foundations and with the same fieldstone” that was lying in the fields where the former Cohansey Brassworks rod and tube extracting mill, an Acorn Iron & Supply acquisition, had sat. In a crazy coincidence, the longtime home of Acorn Iron & Supply on Delaware Avenue in Philadelphia is now the home of Yards Brewing Company.

Courtesy of Peter Davidson & Susan Tabas Tepper

Sometime between 1947 and 1949, another mother, whose son’s allergies had caused her to develop wholesome, stone-ground whole wheat bread, visited Acorn Lane to see the new buildings. Whether or not she cried at their sight is not recorded, but it is known that Mrs. Margaret Rudkin, founder of Pepperidge Farm, agreed to lease 30,000 sq. ft. within the buildings for her second bakery. It’s recorded that the new operation purchased 10,000 quarts of milk and a ton of butter each week from local farmers.

From a fascinating book entitled Shtarker: The Legend Of Daniel M. Tabas, by Peter Davidson and Susan Tabas Tepper, comes the following Dan Tabas’ recollection of what attracted Mrs. Rudkin to Downingtown, formerly Milltown. “I didn’t know anything about grinding flour on waterwheels. Sure enough there was a mill in West Chester where stone grinding was powered by waterwheels. We went over to see it, and it made [Mrs. Rudkin's] day.”

Courtesy of Pepperidge Farm®

The son of a former Pepperidge Farm employee was somewhat instrumental in landing Pepperidge Farm’s replacement, Victory Brewing Company, in Downingtown. This gentleman, Jeff, was heading up the Downingtown Main Street Association (I am Secretary of that organization today) in April of 1995, when our concept was trying to clear minor hurdles to settle in the abandoned facility. After facing an onslaught of concern from local citizens that a brewery restaurant would fill their peaceful town with littered lawns, noisy nights and unplanned pregnancies, Jeff rose in my defense at the zoning meeting. Recounting the stories of his mother and sisters who had worked at Pepperidge Farm, he politely reminded neighbors that it had always been a busy facility, summoning trucks with an exterior loudspeaker system around the clock. Pepperidge’s departure to Denver, PA left the town with a hole of tax revenues to plug and fewer jobs. In granting Victory the simple privilege of a restaurant operation to enhance its conforming industrial use, it was suggested that Victory could become a valuable community contributor. Jeff led the group to consider this possibility. And as we fast forward to present day, we now employ over 235 folks; Jeff’s vision appears to have come true.

Thank you for sharing the past 17 years with us here in Downingtown. We look forward to creating many more great memories here in Downingtown and there in Parkesburg for you and your families. Please consider adding your reminiscences of the last 17 years in Downingtown with a comment below!

 

 

Cheers,

Bill Covaleski

 

 

14 Responses to 17 Years: Our Home in Downingtown

  1. Androo February 8, 2013 at 2:14 PM #

    Cheers, Victory. We love you from afar.

  2. Carol Griese February 8, 2013 at 2:37 PM #

    We moved to our current house in WC on February 28, 1997. They left a welcome basket with a small local yellowpages phone book. The first time we had a hankering for pizza I looked up pizza places in the phone book and there you were. I think it said brewery as well. We drove into the strange parking lot and I kept asking my husband, “Do you think this place will be okay” as we had our 3yr old & 7 month old sons with us.That was the first of many wonderful visits. Happy Anniversary Victory!

  3. Jason M February 8, 2013 at 2:55 PM #

    I’m 28 now. 7 years ago after I turned 21 I made my first visit to Victory during the 2005 Christmas break from college (Shanahan ’03 grad!). Some friends and I got a sampler to try different beers like Hop Devil, Prima, Monkey, and played pool in the corner where the host-stand now is. My first taste of Golden Monkey was wonderful – it is still my favorite beer of all time. Will White Monkey change my mind??!! Thank you Bill (and Ron of course) for such a great experience. I love the Brew Pub as it is now and visit whenever I get the chance. Looking forward to Sunday!!
    - Jason M., Devon, PA

  4. Burt Benenson February 8, 2013 at 3:42 PM #

    Sometime in the ’90′s, not long after the brewery and restaurant opened, I must have read about it somewhere and decided to visit. I’d never been to Downingtown and, from my home in Northeast Phila., it took me about an hour to get to Market East, an hour and a quarter on the train to Downingtown, and about 25 minutes to walk to Victory. The first time there I wandered around the industrial park parking lot for 10 minutes or so until I could find the place tucked away in the corner. It wasn’t very crowded either, especially for a Sat. afternoon. Afterwards I thought how crazy it was to travel over 5 hours round trip just to have lunch and a couple of beers, but I’ve been making the trip four or five times a year ever since. You sure must be doing something right.

  5. Joe Bodary February 10, 2013 at 8:40 PM #

    Very nice recollection. It’s important to look back, recall past decisions and the basis that you made them on periodically. Thanks for sharing your vision and that of those who preceded you in the Downingtown location. I was only was there once with my brother, but enjoy your beer here in Michigan. Hopefully look forward to an increased supply/selection once the new Parkesburg facility is functional!

  6. esd February 10, 2013 at 9:59 PM #

    Agree with the above! Golden Monkey one of my all time favorites. Looking forward to testing this month in Charlotte.

  7. Jim Busch February 12, 2013 at 11:22 AM #

    When I think of the Downingtown brewery, I always flash back to the days before it opened and Bill Sr was high atop a hoist operating the power washing equipment to clean the years of dirt from the ceiling. Talk about a hands on dad! Then I think of the huge open spaces and the thoughts of “will they ever fill up this tank farm?” Yes, they sure did. Great memories indeed, well done! Onward, left turn signal on.

  8. andie b February 12, 2013 at 8:24 PM #

    i remember the many times that my husband and i tried to find the brew pub, but when we did, we became frequent fliers. now i am happy to say that i am one those 235 employees. thanks for 17 great years of fabulous craft beer. cheers to many more.

  9. David Anderson February 17, 2013 at 1:57 PM #

    Congratulations, Bill & Ron! I still remember that pre-opening party with the gang from Baltimore! And, I still enjoy my favorites, Hop Devil, Prima Pils, Headwaters and Summer Love down here in Port Richey, FL.

  10. Andy Schaum February 18, 2013 at 6:46 PM #

    Respecting what came before us is an important part of being involved in a community. And, Downingtown could not have asked for better community leaders than Bill and Ron. My wife and I have fond memories of Brick Oven Pizza from the original place, pre-expansion. Now, there is simply no place we would rather be on a Friday night. Great food, the best beer on the planet, and people working in a labor of love, all of whom we are proud to call our friends. Here’s to making some more incredible history in the years ahead…

  11. Bill Covaleski February 19, 2013 at 8:17 PM #

    Thank you all for adding such great memories to ours, here on this blog! And of course, for all the fun over the years. More to come. Heck, we haven’t even hit 21 yet…

  12. Mike Dysard February 20, 2013 at 1:47 PM #

    I’m one of the few lucky ones who knew Bill before the brewery was in production. Therefore, since in the Fall of ’96, I have many great memories growing up in the Downingtown – Victory Beer culture, which drastically changed my high school/college beer palette. One fond memory was the holiday week of 1999. A past employee Eileen O’Meacham came up with an idea to do a beer exchange at the brewery. We all agreed it would be great fun and there were about a dozen of us who participated. We were told there are no rules on what case of beer to bring but be damn sure it’s not Victory. So, of course I complied like the others in which I brought some crappy xmas ales from out west somewhere, thinking it was the greatest thing since slice bread. We all showed up on time except for one clown, the former T-shirt mogul, Scotty. All the cases were lined up against one of the old muralled walls toward the merch room and we began to trade. Each person was allowed to grab 2 beers per case…. All the sudden, Scotty shows up and throws his case down, marked ‘Victory’. No one was happy to see this but I venture into the cardboard case to find one of the greatest mixed case ever made. At this point I should tell you that Scotty was known for storing ancient bottles of victory in his basement cooler and what I was witnessing was a thing of pure beauty. He quickly rattled off something about just grabbing some junk from coolers but I wasn’t prepared for was I was about to witness. The mixed bag had a sixer of the original ’96 Old Hoe, a sixer of the original ’97 storm king and two sixers of the original ’98 golden monkey. To say at least, I ended up with my greatest Xmas gift since I was twelve years old. A six pack of pure ecstasy! Thanks again Bill and Ron for turning me into the beer nut that I am today. Cheers!

  13. Eric Jensen February 22, 2013 at 7:27 AM #

    I started going to Victory about a year after you opened. I had just moved to Downingtown and looked in the yellow pages for brew pubs in the area, and your name came up. It was really hard to find, and I’m glad I didn’t give up. The inside wasn’t much to talk about, but the food was great, and the beer even better! The best thing about Victory is how diverse the customers are. The love of great beer brings everyone together!

    Congratulations on your success!

  14. bob wayman July 10, 2013 at 4:22 PM #

    My wife and I are from Austin, Texas, Recently we were on a roadtrip to ohio\, New York, Virgina, North Carolina, La, and back to Texas. In Ohio we attended a festival and went to a pub and started ordering craft beers. Low and behold, we ran across Golden Monkey, “my new favorite beer”. So long story short we have been using your beer finder to locate your “Monkey Beer” in each of the places we stopped. However, in Clayton North Carolina, the beer finder located us a spot to purchase, but no Golden Monkey to be found. Luckily we had two left and leave in the morning for Lake Charles, La. and we will search again at the time. Love the Monkey!!!

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European Tradition.

  

American Ingenuity.

The Victory Brewing Story

The story of Victory Brewing Company starts on a school bus in 1973 when fifth-graders Ron Barchet and Bill Covaleski stepped aboard, on their way to a new school. The two became fast friends and remained so, even as they grew up and went to college on opposite coasts. Just months out of college, Bill’s appreciation of good beer and access to his father’s home brewing equipment inspired him to explore the hobby. That same year (1985), Bill gave Ron a home brewing kit as a Christmas gift. With that, both Bill and Ron developed their love of the craft…
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