Laurel couple turns building ready for demolition into brewery

Laurel couple turns building ready for demolition into brewery
Source: WDAM
Source: WDAM
Source: WDAM

LAUREL, MS (WDAM) - In 2013, the old Laurel WAML radio station photos were displayed at a Mississippi Main Street Association meeting on design. A reuse project idea for the building stumped the panel and it seemed that the best option was demolition.

But locals Kenny Mann and his wife, Carrie, had other ideas for the space on West Fifth Avenue.

"They had given up on this building, they were just to the point where they were going to have to seek out the owner and make him do something about it because it was a really big eye sore in downtown Laurel," Mann said.  "Everyone had given up on it, but really I loved it. So we've been able to take it, turn it around and turn it in to something great, I think."

About two years ago, Mann and his wife started the process in purchasing the building Mann said he'd admired since he was a boy.

"When I was a kid, my mom would bring me to the post office and it was such a unique location," Mann said.  "A great building, probably the ugliest building in Downtown Laurel,  it killed me to see it like that."

Mann said they were able to contact the owner and purchase the property and that is when the real work started.

"Everything was an issue," Mann said.  "We had to completely redo all the power, water, gas, completely from scratch. The power actually had to be run from the other side of the road from a pole. Everything in this building is completely brand new."

Mann said the building also needed new doors and paint, the couple filling up over eight large dumpsters when moving in.  He said they also had to replace at least 200 window panes around the building.

"Some days it's a nightmare, but most days it is a dream," Mann said.

This past week, the Manns were awarded the "Outstanding Adaptive Reuse Project" by the Mississippi Main Street Association.  The award  granted to the best adaptive reuse of a building that has outlived its former use.

"Feels incredible and makes me feel very proud this is slowly becoming kind of the hub in downtown Laurel," Mann said.  "A place for families to come, relax, have a beer or two, listen to a great band.  Or, just come and hang out, have a conversation with somebody. Makes me really proud to be able to offer that."

Mann said Slowboat Brewing Company is preparing for even more business with a new craft beer law going into effect on July 1st.  HB 1322 was signed in March by Governor Phil Bryant and allows breweries that produce less than 60,000 barrels of product to sell two cases in a 24-hour period to customers.

"There's so much room for growth here and I think starting July 1st, you are going to see a huge boost in the growth and we have a lot of catching up to do here," Mann said.

Mississippi currently has nine craft beer breweries, but Mann expects that number to grow.  Slowboat Brewing Company is having an all-day celebration on July 1st, starting with breakfast at 7 a.m.  You can find more information on Slowboat Brewing Company's Facebook page here.