After more than two years of helping customers make beer at home, a local retailer hopes to start serving his own brews from a new, larger location.
Tony Ammendolia, owner of home-brew store Original Gravity, is looking to expand into a hybrid retail and brewery model a few doors down from his Lakeside storefront.
Ammendolia wants to serve pints from a planned 31-gallon capacity Lakeside Towne Center microbrewery. He said it would be Richmond’s smallest brewery, and would be a way to introduce more people to his retail business.
“Current customers might have a beer or fill a growler while shopping for ingredients, but serving beer will also open up more possibilities for customers that don’t brew to stop in and enjoy our beers,” Ammendolia said.
Ammendolia, a Virginia Commonwealth University graduate and 20-year home brewing veteran, is eyeing a 5,000-square-foot space at 6118 Lakeside Ave. that formerly housed antique shop Feathernesters. The storefront is three doors over from the current Original Gravity location, a 1,000-square-foot shop Ammendolia will vacate if he moves into the larger space.
The brewery plans are still in their earliest phases, Ammendolia said. Original Gravity will try to clear one hurdle next month when the store’s landlord will petition for a zoning change to accommodate the brewery.
If he can’t brew from the Lakeside location, Ammendolia said he may look for a new space elsewhere. But he said he’d prefer to stay at Lakeside Towne Center, a roughly 27,000-square-foot retail strip owned by Peter Francisco.
“Home brewers already know where this is, they could park in the same parking lot and walk over,” he said.
The planned brewery will only take up about a quarter of the new potential Original Gravity store. Ammendolia will need most of the space for Original Gravity’s retail stock, which he hopes to expand with more types of malt and hops and a wider selection of brewing and fermenting gear.
“It’s a tight space here, so I’m looking for more real estate for more products,” he said. “I’ve been here 2 ½ years and probably outgrew the space in the first year.”
Ammendolia opened Original Gravity in November 2011, just as the Richmond-area brewery boom began. He made his first foray into commercial brewing this year by teaming up with Isley Brewing Co. to brew a beer served at Isley’s Scott’s Addition brewery.
Ammendolia said he isn’t sure how much of his revenue will come from on-site beer sales compared to retail sales, but said he does not plan to distribute his beers outside of his storefront.
Expansion costs will include a load of new retail inventory, store fixtures and new brewing equipment. He declined to say how much it would all cost.
The brewery’s menu is also up in the air.
“Being so small, I would take advantage of the fact that I can brew all different things,” Ammendolia said. “But I would probably try and have a couple of flagships for consistency.”