Modern brewing on old Post Street
The next addition to Jacksonville’s booming craft brewing scene is planned for Riverside. Partners Andrew Suslak and Brandon Merkle hope to open Post Modern Brewing in the former Pure Oil station at 2951 Post Street, just east of Roosevelt Boulevard, in the near future.
Both partners have years of experience in home brewing. A pharmacist by training, Suslak got into the hobby thanks to Merkle. “It’s kind of a funny story,” said Suslak. “Brandon was a home brewer for a year or so before I got into it. And he was moving from one apartment to a different apartment and it didn’t have room for all his brewing stuff and he said, ‘hey, can I store this in your garage for a while?’ Then because it was in my garage, I said, well, just come by and brew. And that’s how I got involved in it.”
“If you like beer and science, it’s a fun hobby,” said Suslak. “But then we started winning some awards, and we said, maybe this can be more than just a garage brewery. And that’s where Post Modern came in.” But it wasn’t until visiting the Post Street building that Suslak decided to take his brewing to the professional level.
Pure Oil, the Purple Petunia and beyond
The building was originally built as a station for the Ohio-based Pure Oil Company in 1935, with Dan W. Copelan as the original proprietor. Self-trained architect Carl A. Peterson designed the structure in a distinctive English cottage style with features of a house, including a high pitched roof and two chimneys on each side of the main building. It featured two service bays and an overhang covering the pumps. As with other “house-type” gas stations of the time, the idea was to create a safe, efficient and attractive gas station that could appeal even to neighborhood residents. The homey appearance wasn’t just for show; the building also had quarters where the station manager lived.
The building in 2018 with its purple paint job.
In the 1960s, the building was home to the Barter House thrift shop. In 1968, Wesley and Anne Plott purchased the building, attracted by its kitschy appearance. They operated the Purple Petunia, a much loved shop with a distinctive purple paint job that sold antiques and flowers and was a popular stop for Riverside’s bohemian and LGBTQ communities in the later 20th century. The store closed after Wesley Plott’s death in 1994. Other businesses intermittently operated in the space, but it has been vacant for years. Last year, Petra Property Management repainted the building in more muted colors and began actively marketing it for new uses.
Suslak grew up in Riverside and, like many in the neighborhood, he always had a fondness for the unusual building. “I drove past the building twice a day for 18 years,” said Suslak. “When Purple Petunia went out of business, it just sort of laid abandoned for years. When I saw that it was available, I was like, it’s such a cool building, I just want to see inside of it.” He loved what he saw, and called up Merkle. After their next tour, they were sold. “We said alright, I think this could work,” said Suslak.
Post Modern’s next steps
The building is currently undergoing rezoning review. If that is successful, Suslak hopes to move forward quickly with the buildout. As envisioned, the brewery will feature a 3.5 barrel system located in one of the former service bays and a taproom that takes advantage of the building’s indoor and outdoor spaces. Suslak plans to restore the roll-up doors in the service bays. “When the weather’s nice, we’ll be able to open up basically the whole place,” he said. Suslak says he hopes for seating for 40 inside and another 40 outside, but that depends on parking requirements.
“We’re looking forward to opening a new business in Riverside,” said Suslak. “I feel honored that this will be the first business you encounter when entering Riverside up Post Street coming from Murray Hill. It’s a good location between Murray Hill and King Street.”
Article by Bill Delaney. Contact Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.