YOUNGSTOWN — Since their purchase of the former Republic Steel warehouse in December 2020, Richard Bernacki and Aspasia Lyras-Bernacki have worked to turn the building into Penguin City Brewing Co.’s production facility and taproom.
That work paid off with a Friday grand opening.
“People have been constantly asking us when we were going to open,” Lyras-Bernacki said. “To now be open is definitely a dream come true.”
The co-owners said they spent about $4 million for the company’s production line and to open the taproom and brewhouse along with an event center and rental space at the 32,704-square-foot property at 460 E. Federal St. That included buying the building for $575,000 in December 2020.
“We knew we could create something here,” Lyras-Bernacki said. “We want to revitalize this part of the city. We have really strong entities in this corridor. We hope more businesses come and invest in this area and the city.”
The work done to the interior of the building was extensive with some more to be completed in the next four to six weeks, Bernacki said.
“We have all new lighting, new fans and about 22 tables,” he said.
There’s also a large bar and production space.
“Everything is new,” Bernacki said. “It’s an exciting day to finally be able to open.”
Lyras-Bernacki added: “You can sit and drink a beer and watch as it’s being made. For us, this has been a labor of love.”
The DOPE Cider House & Winery, Penguin City’s first tenant, will open for business next month.
Cockeye BBQ & Creamery expects to open in November. There will be food trucks at the location until Cockeye opens.
The former Republic property first was developed in 1884 as a stable, saloon, wagon shop and lumber yard. It’s been a hotel, restaurant, billiards parlor, blacksmith shop, candy shop, steel and iron fabricators plant and a steel warehouse over the years.
The owners thanked Councilman Julius Oliver, D-1st Ward, for providing assistance and support.
Oliver, who was at Friday’s opening, said, “This is one of the greatest things to happen in downtown. This is just as big as renovating 20 Federal Place and the (DoubleTree by Hilton) hotel. We’ve got a new staple in downtown. This is huge for the east end of downtown. It’s great to see entrepreneurs coming together under one roof.”
Oliver said he plans to use about $300,000 from his $2 million American Rescue Plan Act allocation to build a walking path and parking lot behind the Youngstown Flea, which is close to Penguin City, to benefit the area.
“It will move the area towards the future,” he said. “Hopefully, it will attract more businesses to the area.”