I passed the point of no return today. I signed our lease and took possession of a giant warehouse. For the last four months Coppertail Brewing Co has been a company on paper only, little more than a bank account and a collection of expenses. After a few strokes of a pen the brewery suddenly became a place. I got the key, rolled up the doors and surveyed our kingdom this evening.

I left foot prints in the black grime coating the floor as I walked. It looked like the place hadn’t been cleaned in a decade. Paint bubbled and peeled off the concrete block walls and blood stained the wood of the rusted rat traps in the corners. Had that wall always had a big crack running through it?   And why was the office door off it’s hinges?  Without the previous tenant’s belongings to shield the building from view it looked like a dump.

I stood staring into the filthy emptiness for a few moments in silence. I didn’t want to admit it but my first big decision as founder of this brewery was starting to look like a huge mistake.  But as I stared, shapes emerged from the darkness.   Shiny steel tanks stood in rows, clean red hoses ran across spotless floors, a conveyor belts shuttled empty beer bottles past. The bready aroma of barley seeping in hot water wafted along the air. People crowded around a bar, pouring back pints of a new, local Tampa beer.

The building is a dump. But it’s a dump on the on the southern edge of Ybor with enough square footage to do whatever we want, right across from Ikea and steps from the Columbia restaurant. The size and location could not be better. It just needs some work. And a whole lot of vision.

I  finished my tour of the new premises and started locking up. I pressed the down button to close the last electric roller door but less than halfway down the thing clanked to a stop and no amount of button pushing, door wiggling or cursing would get it to move either up or down again. The warehouse door was stuck open. I had no ladder, tools, or any idea how to fix the mechanism. I couldn’t even reach it. I called the repair company number from the sticker on the mechanism but was greeted by an after hours recording. I couldn’t believe it. I broke the new warehouse the very first day I took possession of it.

I stood in front of the open door for a long time wondering what to do. I haven’t moved anything in, yet, and the place is already a wreck. What’s somebody going to do? Go in and clean it up? I drove away, leaving the warehouse open to the night. I’m hoping it won’t be vandalized or filled with squatters tomorrow morning. And I hope my inability to fix the door malfunction is not a sign of things to come.

Bad omen or not, one thing is certain: there is no turning back now.

Kent Bailey
President and Founder
Coppertail Brewing Co