Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Brewing Ambitions: Bricktown Crosses State Lines for Expansion

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Brewing Ambitions: Bricktown Crosses State Lines for Expansion

Article excerpt

FORT SMITH, Ark. - Fort Smith, Arkansas, is redeveloping its downtown into a destination point, with restaurants and retail stores leading people to the scenic Arkansas River.

With several new businesses opening citywide, the downtown revitalization only helps to improve the area's quality of life, said Tim Allen, Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce's president and CEO.

That downtown revitalization includes a small piece of Oklahoma, with Bricktown Brewery opening in the former Varsity Sports Grill, 318 Garrison Ave. That Fort Smith restaurant is the latest location for the company that has been on expansion mode since 2011.

Bricktown Brewery President Buck Warfield said there are plans to open three more restaurants this year, as well as a Wichita, Kansas, site. The Wichita store will open in two weeks. The other locations have not yet been determined. In 2016, the company plans to add three to five more stores, he said. All the locations will be within 400 miles of Oklahoma City, where all the brews will be made. Besides the Bricktown location, the company has restaurants in Shawnee, Owasso, Edmond and at Remington Park.

"We really prefer to go to smaller, metro areas," he said. "We have no interest in being in Dallas or downtown Houston. We don't want to elbow our way into areas with the big national guys."

That growth strategy is perfectly fine with Allen, who said that the Bricktown Brewery has helped elevate downtown Fort Smith's cool factor.

"With Bricktown's opportunity to purchase the Varsity, the timing couldn't be any better for us or Bricktown," Allen said.

The company spent $500,000 to $700,000 renovating an old two- story brick building, just four blocks east of the Arkansas River. The partnership group, Waterloo Holdings, purchased the building in June 2014 and the restaurant opened in October.

Allen said the restaurant is continuously busy, and he doesn't expect that to slow as the city develops a multipurpose trail from downtown to the University of Arkansas at Fort Smith and other areas in the city.

"I think they'll be pretty successful here," Allen said.

Warfield agrees, and commended Fort Smith for being a pro- business community. …

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