PBC makes a fresh start after Yards' departure.
"Hey, Rich," Nancy recalls saying, "There's this sign that says 'bottling plant.' You know anything about it?"
"I really loved working here," says Steve Hach, a former Yards delivery truck driver who quit last June to take a job as a stock market research analyst. "It's really a 19th-century workspace--the ownership's mentality, I mean. Everybody works together and there's a sharing of tasks."
It wasn't uncommon, Hach says, to see Nancy and Bill working the bottling line or loading trucks. Every day the staff eats lunch together, with the Bartons usually footing the bill for the 15-member team.
"It's really a pre-capitalistic system," says Hach, who still swings by for Friday night drinks.
When the wife and grandson of a Yards driver were mauled in a pit bull attack, the crew at Yards, led by salesman Chris Morris, organized a benefit party to raise money for the hospital bills. They arranged for area restaurants to donate food, they had seven bands perform, and Yards beer flowed all day.
"We raised about $8,000," says Morris. "It was a good day."
Bill watches over his team like a protective father.
Even after being in the building three years, Bill felt like he needed to walk his employees out to their cars at the end of the workday. There hadn't been any problems, but it was still Kensington.
On a sweltering August afternoon in 2004, after his staff left the parking area across the street from the brewery, Bill spotted the lifeless, battered body of a young girl in the bushes. The 15-year-old Kensington High School student Nicole Reilly had been strangled to death. Her body was dumped in the lot, a block from her Amber Street home.
Friends of the slain girl erected a memorial across the street from the brewery's entrance. It was a constant reminder of why this neighborhood needed the brewery, of why things needed to change.
"You have to go through a certain level of shit here," says Mary Seton Corboy, co-founder of Kensington's Greensgrow Farms. "There are people who want Kensington to stay what it was."
Corboy met the Bartons when they arrived at the farm for a spring opening event. They brought beer, and became fast friends.
"There's a lot of simpatico about being in Kensington and what it means to be a business in this community," Corboy says.
She shared her dreams of turning the neighborhood into a Gourmet Ghetto like in Berkeley, Calif. She envisions an area teeming with small food processors and restaurants serving meals made from locally grown products.
"Let's face it," she says. "The factories aren't coming back."
So one day while she was working the bottling line at the brewery--friends of the Bartons frequently assist with production, painting, cleaning and whatever else needs to be done--she noticed caves where beer had been stored a century ago. Nancy suggested that those little nooks would be great places to age artisanal cheeses. Now that the brewery is functional again, Corboy plans to start making cheese there, and the brewery will host beer and cheese tastings.
In return, Greensgrow will grow herbs and cultivate honey that will be blended into special Philadelphia Brewing Company beers. Nancy actually dons netting to extract honey from hives at the farm.
"At every layer you dig, you find the same people getting involved," Corboy says. "And Bill and Nancy are always at the root."
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.
Philly Weekly's Fall Guide 2015
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