Ball fields complex spurs new business growth

Published 11:55 am Wednesday, October 11, 2017

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Economic development around the new Joseph W. Luter Jr. sports complex has been predicted ever since the town began planning the facility. That prediction is now coming true.

The Smithfield Recreation Association’s softball commissioner, Tom Dawson, plans to open a brewery across the street from the sports complex. Down the street, Jignesh Nisar is opening the “Main Street Food Mart” in the former Hearn’s Bait Barn building.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

757 Brewing Company plans to offer a tasting room for craft beer, live entertainment and food via a food truck, said Dawson.

Nisar plans to operate a mini-restaurant, offering burgers, hot dogs, fried chicken and submarine sandwiches along with convenience store sundries, bait and gasoline. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Nisar said the new sports complex, which is geared for youth sports, factored into his business plan of selling food. He is remodeling the store to include a full-fledged kitchen.

Dawson said the sports complex was not part of his decision to locate the brewery at 895 W. Main St. Rather, it was based on a deal in Norfolk that didn’t work out, the difficulty in finding a commercial building suitable for a micro brewery and the desire to open the business in his hometown.

Baer Development LLC owns the building and includes as a partner Smithfield Town Council member Randy Pack. Dawson plans to lease the building from Baer Development.

Dawson said he is working with West Virginia restaurateur and brew pub owner Matt Holbert to get the 757 Brewing Company up and running in Smithfield.

“I want to make it a destination and venue for Smithfield,” he said.

As to opening a brewery across from a sports complex geared for children, Dawson said he sees no problem, noting that 7-Eleven sells beer and wine, as did Hearn’s.

Dawson said he plans to be responsible with the hours that the brewery is open, but will probably have it open when a tournament is underway. However, there will be food available as well as non-alcoholic beverages, he said, adding that the elementary school-age children in town have always been a priority for him, as he has also volunteered in the schools.

And while the town of Smithfield’s planning and zoning department hasn’t been approached by Dawson despite the sign announcing the brewery, he said he plans to obtain all the necessary permits to open the business.

Meanwhile, some work has begun. A Sept. 29 brewery Facebook post by Dawson thanked Brian and Randy Pack for helping to knock down walls, haul debris and chipping tiles.

The property is zoned light industrial and Dawson said he considers making beer to be a form of manufacturing — a permitted use within that zoning classification.

Dawson hopes that the brewery will add to Smithfield’s luster as a “destination” for tourists and others, plus give locals another place to hang out.

The sports complex has long been touted as an economic development driver for the town.

It is a way to further enhance Smithfield as a “destination” and add an entirely new level of tourism, said Vice Mayor Andrew Gregory at the Oct. 3 Town Council meeting.

The sports complex was conceived several years ago as a way to mitigate the crowded conditions at the SRA’s Beale Park facility. A non-profit, SRA provides baseball and softball opportunities for children and youth.

After a failed attempt to build the facility along Great Spring Road, the town began eyeing the Little Farm along Route 258 in early 2015 as an alternate site. The town of Smithfield began negotiating the purchase of the Little Farm in late 2015 and the sale was finalized on Jan. 26, 2016, according to Isle of Wight County assessment records.

Baer Development LLC filed with the State Corporation Commission the day before the town finalized its property purchase, on Jan. 25, 2016, according to state records.

Pack said the timing of those events is coincidental. He said his company, Baer Development, bought the former SW Rawls building because Smithfield Station needed storage.  The SW Rawls building was purchased on March 10, 2016 for $285,000, according to Isle of Wight assessment information.

The property at 895 W. Main St. had been on the market since 2013.

Pack said there was originally a tenant in the building, but they had since moved on.

“We have had a large “for rent” sign out front for a year before 757 Brewing signed on with only one short term tenant.  757 wanted the entire space so we are now looking for additional storage.  We would prefer to buy a building in town with the same goals as above, so if you hear of anything, please let us know,” said Pack in an Oct. 7 email.  {/mprestriction}