PBC makes a fresh start after Yards' departure.
|Tanks for the memories: PBC makes a fresh start after Yards' departure.|
But Yards was desperate for a location to expand its growing brand. And the building's history seemed perfect.
When they took over the property, it was full of supermarket supplies like deli cases, racks, scales and freezers. The basement was full of shopping carts.
"You couldn't even see the floor," Nancy says.
Martha Street had long been a wasteland, an illegal dumping ground surrounded by graffiti-covered walls. So while the crew at the brewery spent months prepping the building for production, Bill and Nancy organized cleanup days with the New Kensington Community Development Corporation. They invited neighbors to help, enticing them with free beer and barbecued hot dogs.
The Bartons quickly became active members of the evolving community. They joined civic association boards, worked with other local businesses, sponsored community events, and donated beer and time. Slowly, in part because of their efforts, the area is becoming lively again.
"It just needed to happen," Bill says. "Something needed to change."
They began to take pride in where they were despite the neighborhood's longstanding reputation for drugs and prostitution.
"You're not in Fishtown, but tell people you're in Fishtown," people advised Bill.
Instead he had Yards T-shirts printed that boasted, "Welcome to Kensington."
Last August, when the ownership group of Yards dissolved their relationship and settled their nasty, long-overdue business divorce, Yards co-founder Tom Kehoe walked away with the Yards brand, and the Bartons got the building.
That's the way they wanted it.
Because for the Bartons, it's about more than just the beer.
"The part of Yards that helped the community was entirely Bill and Nancy," says Pat McHugh, a neighbor and happy hour regular. "It was Bill and Nancy who brought this community together."
"All the businesses have done a lot to make this neighborhood better," says Frank Wilson, a 38-year-old lifelong Kensington resident and happy hour fixture. "But Bill and Nancy have done more for this neighborhood than any other business could."
"You just love us 'cause we feed you beer," Nancy jokes to Wilson, who's vice president of the East Kensington Neighbors Association.
He's a bit tipsy. He has a long, dark beard, and he sports a Carhartt jacket and pants--an ensemble he tops off with a Fidel Castro-style hat.
He stares into space for a moment before citing some of the Bartons' accomplishments in the neighborhood: The brewery hosts the monthly East Kensington Neighbors Association meetings, they sponsor the Trenton Avenue Arts Festival, and they invite volunteers to the brewery after frequent neighborhood cleanup days.
"We feed them beer," Nancy reiterates, downplaying their impact.
Tom Kehoe stands behind the newly constructed bar in the Yards Brewery on Delaware Avenue. It’s shortly after noon on a Saturday, and Kehoe, whose stout build and genial disposition suggest a man who could drink you under the table but would also happily pick up the tab, is welcoming visitors with freshly poured beer.