The Freedman’s Bakery site at 8th Avenue and Main Street in Belmar soon may be producing a new product:
The East Coast Beer Company, makers of Beach Haus beer, is under contract to purchase the building where Freedman’s has long stood.
Members of the company addressed the Belmar Borough Council during its workshop session Wednesday to explain their intention to convert the Main Street bakery into a microbrewery, complete with a storefront to sell small amounts of their line of four Jersey Shore-themed beers.
“The beer company is obviously a Jersey Shore-themed and branded based upon the Jersey Shore and the location here in Belmar just really is very exciting to us,’’ East Coast Brewery investor Joel Brudner said. “We think it’s a very compatible partner.”
There may even be a Belmar-themed brew in the offing, officials said.
“I think it’s going to be great,” Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty said. “This is going to be a much improved building. We’re making a lot of improvements to Main Street while we’re still recovering from Sandy.’’
John Merklin, of Brick Township, one of the founders of the company, said he chose the Freedman’s site because of its ease of conversion, proximity to a major highway – Route 35 – and its location in Belmar.
“There’s a strong argument to be made that (Belmar) is the artery of the Jersey Shore,’’ Merklin said. “I’m one of those folks who would make that argument.’’
The company, founded in 2007, started selling beer in 2010 only in Monmouth and Ocean counties. It now distributes beer throughout the state and five other Eastern states: North and South Carolina, Conneticuit, Pennsylvania and New York, Merklin said.
The company does not currently have its own brewing operation. It owns the recipes for its beers and rents space in established breweries to make its beers. The purchase of the Freedman’s site will give the company a permanent home.
Merklin said converting the bakery into a brewery was a simple conversion.
“The process of making beer and making bread or making bakery items is very, very similar,’’ Merklin said. “It’s the least intrusive location we could find.’’
The new brewery would not be a new bar, however. It will mainly be a wholesale operation brewing beer for distribution. Tours can be arranged with a small tasting at the conclusion of the tour, Merklin said.
And although there will be a small storefront where customers could buy a small amounts of beer to go, it is not a place to walk in, sit down and drink beer.
“It’s not going to be a brew pub,’’ Merklin said.
The brewery is buying the whole building, including the storefront of the barber shop and the antique store. Upon closing of the deal, the company plans to encorporate both of those storefronts into the brewery plans, Brudner said.
The company intends to begin renovating the bakery immediately upon closing the deal. No solid date was set Wednesday.“We’re going to be a destination for people,’’ Merklin said. “It’s going to be an attraction.’’