SARANAC LAKE - Mark Gillis wants to turn an old carwash into Saranac Lake's first microbrewery.
Gillis, an investment banker and securities broker who ran unsuccessfully for village board earlier this year, plans to convert the former carwash at Carcuzzi Car Care Center on Lake Flower Avenue into what he's calling the Blue Line Brewery. The village Planning Board has scheduled a public hearing on the project at 7 p.m. Aug. 15.
Gillis told the Enterprise Tuesday that he came up with the idea during one of his visits to Saranac Lake before he moved here permanently last summer from Westchester County.
Mark Gillis of Saranac Lake wants to convert the former carwash building at Carcuzzi Car Care Center on Lake Flower Avenue, seen here Tuesday, into a microbrewery.
(Enterprise photo — Chris Knight)
"When I was coming back and forth during my trips here, I was wondering why there wasn't a microbrewery already in Saranac Lake," he said. "I've always thought about it before. When I came here, I realized there's an opportunity here.
"Where I lived before, I saw a brewery (Captain Lawrence Brewing Company in Pleasantville) that basically started from the ground up, and they did it in an old warehouse. They pounded the pavement and sold to all the local bars and restaurants. They also opened up a tasting room three to four days a week and allowed the public to come in. That's what I want to do here."
Gillis said he looked around at several different sites in the village before the possibility of renting the carwash came up in a discussion with Carcuzzi owner and town of Harrietstown Councilman Bob Bevilacqua.
"It wasn't my first choice, but looking at it, it should have been my first choice," he said. "I looked at a couple buildings for sale in the area. One building made sense, I made an offer and they didn't take it. Then I looked at another building right in the village, crunched the numbers and it really didn't work.
"Then I was talking to Bob one night, and he said, 'Why don't you rent the carwash?' When I started thinking about it over the course of a few weeks, it started to make more and more sense. It's not going to be the prettiest thing inside for the tasting room, but for the brewery part of it, you have everything you need. It's a warehouse with a drain already in the floor."
Bevilacqua said the 1,400-square-foot carwash building shut down more than a year and a half ago due to equipment problems. He said a microbrewery would be a perfect fit.
"I think it's great," he said. "It's a good location. The nice thing about this site is he'll have plenty of visibility from people going to or coming from Lake Placid. It will be a good thing for both of us."
Gillis said he won't have to do much to convert the building into a brewery. He plans to put up three interior walls and turn an exterior window into an exterior door. In addition to the brewery operation, he also plans to make an office in the building for his investment firm, Hudson Valley Capital Management, which is currently renting space on Academy Street.
So what kind of beer is he planning on brewing? Gillis said he's planning at least four varieties: a pale ale, an India pale ale, a lager and either a red ale or a porter. He's done some homebrewing himself, and has been researching and experimenting since coming up with the idea for the microbrewery. Gillis said he's also planning to hire a brewer to help run the facility.
"I'm not trying to profess it's going to be the best beer you've ever tasted, but have you really had a bad craft beer before?" he said. "Outside of an unusual tasting beer, they're all pretty darn good. It's going to be good craft beer for the locals or the people coming from out of town to visit."
Gillis has already applied to the state Liquor Authority for a microbrewery license that will allow him to sell his brews to bars and restaurants. He initially plans to sell in Saranac Lake and Lake Placid, then expand out from there if the business is successful. He said the license will also allow him to provide four, four-ounce tastings per person, per day at the microbrewery, where he also plans to sell growlers of his brews.
"That's kind of the idea," he said. "If the concept works, who knows, I might try to expand out of the carwash."
Gillis hopes to open for business by November, although he said that depends on when he gets his license and all the necessary approvals from the village.