Norman St:In a Forgotten Neighborhood, A Lively Industry is Booming

March 17, 2016
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By Seth Daniel

Traditional knowledge in Everett told everyone to stay away from Norman Street and Air Force Road, but with the growing industry around brewing and distilling in that area, keeping people away from the suddenly popular – but once completely forgotten – neighborhood has been very hard to do.

On any Friday night or Saturday – or really just about any time after work hours – the Night Shift Brewery on Santilli Highway and Norman Street can be found with a line out the door and food trucks serving exotic fare. Long time residents recall the days when as children, if they were found over there, they would get scolded and have to throw away their sneakers due to potential toxins. Yet now, there couldn’t be a more desirable place to be, and with two more similar businesses taking shape, the area is about ready to expand upon that popularity.

Night Shift was the pioneer of the district – dubbed by business owners as the Everett Ethanol Enclave as a nudge to the number of alcohol-related manufacturers coming to the forgotten district – opening up its expanded location in mid-2014. However, last summer the Short Path Distillery opened its doors, producing rum, gin and other custom spirits. Currently, the Bone Up Brewery is in the final stages of building and permitting its small brewery just down from Night Shift.

“You look for places that are out of the way,” said Liz Kiraly, who is building out Bone Up with her husband, Jared. “Sometimes the neighborhood builds up around it and creates this area that becomes very special. I’ve seen that happen many times in other places. You can find great things in unique places…I think there’s a lot of unused industrial space here with a lot of potential. We decided on this building because we could customize it. We had free reign on everything we wanted to do. There were no walls and no lights. We love the neighborhood. I think it has a lot of potential to become something very special.”

Jared Kiraly and his wife, married for one year now, have been working on the permitting of their new brewery since 2014 – now just finishing up with the City code inspection and Building Department. He said the City has been a tremendous help.

“We started seriously working on this two years ago,” he said. “Honestly, as soon as possible we’ll be open. Our contractor has some work to do and we’re waiting on work to be done to the outside of the building. Once that’s done, we’ll be ready to brew. If things go well, it could be a couple of months…It’s been a learning experience. You don’t realize how many steps there are to get from point A to point B.”

At Short Path, two Northeastern University students and one Tufts University student parlayed their fine Scotch-drinking club into a love of finer spirits. In fact, after graduation and entering into their careers, they grew to have such a sophisticated palate that they decided to start making exactly what they wanted – with their own hands.

Zachary Robinson, Jackson Hewlett and Matthew Kurtzman all started down their Short Path a few years ago. Robinson, having a Master’s Degree in chemistry from Northeastern, had a great handle on what it took to distill spirits. After writing a business plan, and securing investment dollars, the only thing holding them back was a location. Having not been welcomed in Boston, and being priced out of Somerville and Cambridge, they turned to Everett.

“Boston seemed not to really need a small potatoes business like ours,” said Robinson. “They were nice, but not very welcoming…Then we expanded out to look in Everett and Chelsea to see what was there. We wanted to be in a place with public transportation access and we knew Night Shift from before they opened up. We talked to them and they had good things to say about Everett. We looked at a couple of spots in Everett right away and the buildings were pretty nice. They had good bones and weren’t in bad shape for being so old. It felt good. Before we even signed our lease, the City of Everett contacted us and wanted to know what they could do to help. We felt welcomed in Everett.”

Now, the company has a cocktail room with regulars dropping in from Everett and other nearby cities. They sell their custom gin and rum to restaurants all over the Boston area, and their special edition Gold aged rum has already sold out after going up for sale in February.

They are busy, and business is brisk, and the people are coming in larger and larger numbers.

Inside the distillery, which was the old Rubber Rite factory, there are several copper Pot Stills in the process of creating rum and – this week – the Greek equivalent of Sambuca, called Ouzo.

“You can really feel the neighborhood getting some good life to it,” said Robinson, as he monitored the high-proof Ouzo coming out of the still. “Norman Street and Santilli Highway, that could be a really, really great street. It will have Night Shift, Bone Up and us right within a block…It’s a little more organic than Assembly Square, which was also an industrial area, except they just put up a parking lot and some stores.”

He said the phenomenon of craft brewing is something that extends to everything from custom bottles of gin to homemade soaps.

“We’ve industrialized and standardized everything,” he said. “Probably 99 percent of our life is standard, so there is this desire to have a little bit of control over something…Once you have that change, it’s a snowball effect and it opens up so many other things. They want to have control over the product and see where it’s made and know who is making it. We always have an owner on site to meet and greet the people. We have a lot of regulars now, which is wonderful. We meet people and they keep coming back.”

Choosing Everett, Jared Kiraly said, was the natural reach outside of Boston, and an industry such as craft brewing. He said those who seek out his product like the overall experience of visiting the out-of-the-way brewery, having a beer right on site where it’s absolutely fresh, and then taking some home. It’s not a crowd, he said, that is always content to just buy beer at a liquor store and go home.

For Kiraly, he said he looked at a map and visited industrial properties within a 50-mile radius of Boston. Everett was the closest area with the best buildings and the most affordability.

“Part of the popularity of these small breweries is the cache of going to an old industrial area that is being revived,” he said. “Old industrial buildings look cool, but you can’t do much with them. These kinds of businesses make sense for them. Hopefully, more things will come to attract more people here. There’s talk of a café, which is good.”

Said his wife, Liz, “We really love Everett and are excited to be here.”

Zachary Robinson of Short Path Distillery on Kelvin Street – right off Norman Street – co-founded their custom spirits company with two friends. After opening last summer, they have already seen significant sales and significant foot traffic.

Zachary Robinson of Short Path Distillery on Kelvin Street – right off Norman Street – co-founded their custom spirits company with two friends. After opening last summer, they have already seen significant sales and significant foot traffic.