Two breweries coming to Strasburg to fill different niches

Tom Price, co-owner of Box Office Brewery, stands on the balcony of the former Strand Theatre building that is being renovated to house one of Strasburg's two new breweries. Rich Cooley/Daily

STRASBURG ­- Two new breweries will open in the heart of Strasburg, population 6,500, in just a couple of months.

They’ll fill different niches, the two owners said.  The larger of the two, Box Office Brewery, should comfortably seat more than 200 patrons, and the other, Siblings’ Rivalry Brewery, will appeal to smaller crowds.

Tom Price, who owns the Box Office Brewery, said he wants to preserve the building’s history as the site of the old Strand Theatre at 177 E. King St.

Price detailed a few of his strategies to blend the old with the new: he’ll decorate the walls with Strand Theatre movie posters he discovered in the structure’s insulation; he’s putting a vertical sign outside the storefront, which historically said “THEATRE,” and will now say “BREWERY;” and the far end of the main floor will be painted black, with a catwalk up high and a huge curtain hanging from the ceiling, staying true to the building’s theater roots.

“When you go back in here, you’re going to go, ‘Wow.’ It’s a ‘wow’ factor. That’s what we wanted, and that’s what it’s become,” Price said, standing on the balcony level he added to the main floor, indicating the huge open space below.

Michael Saylor, left, of New Market and Keith Cook, right, of Harrisonburg, paint the facade of Strasburg's Box Office Brewery on King Street on Wednesday. The pair are employed by Blue Ridge Classic Painting, LLC. Rich Cooley/Daily

During the renovation process, Price said the construction team discovered more than old movie posters in the insulation. Behind ancient walls, the team uncovered painted murals of Strasburg. Price was able to point out Signal Knob on a few of them. Price decided not to refurbish them to preserve their authenticity, and he plans to put them behind Plexiglas for patrons to view them exactly as they are.

The building’s history largely stopped in 1955, when it stopped playing all shows. The structure was originally built around 1918, and the Box Office Brewery’s anticipated grand opening in summer will roughly match up with the building’s centennial.

“If you think about this, this is like 100 years, this year,” Price said. “This is like a 100-year anniversary for this building. Talk about a grand opening.”

Down the street, at 234 W. King St., Kyle Slonecker is hoping to open Siblings’ Rivalry Brewery by late April or early May.

The smaller venue runs on a one-barrel system, has seating for approximately 40 patrons, and its menu will initially feature three styles of brews: a honey cream ale named “The Favorite;” an Irish red named “Stepchild”; and a double IPA named “Eldest.”

For those new to craft beers, Slonecker recommends the “Favorite,” dubbing it his “transition beer.”

“It tastes like beer,” he said, adding that he expects it to become one of his bestsellers. “Every family has a favorite child, and that one is my favorite.”

Still keeping his day job in Winchester during the week, Slonecker plans to be open for business Saturdays and Sundays from 12-8 p.m.

Besides these two breweries, there are three others in Shenandoah County: Ridge Runner Farms and Brewing Co. in Maurertown; Woodstock Brew House in Woodstock; and Swover Creek Farms in Edinburg.

Zooming out, there are 16 breweries along the Shenandoah Spirits Trail, a regional network of craft beverage makers from Winchester to Harrisonburg, in addition to nearly 30 other wineries, cideries and distilleries.

But Jenna French, the county’s director of tourism and economic development, believes that Shenandoah County’s brewery market is nowhere near its saturation point.

“Definitely no fear of that any time soon,” French said. “From a tourism standpoint, the more concentration there is, the more likely we are to attract people from the outside to come and explore our breweries.

“If you’re traveling from northern Virginia because you like craft beer, oftentimes you want to go and check out more than one establishment,” she said. “We’ve become more of a destination with the more product that we have, and the new breweries that open.”

Even in a town the size of Strasburg, Price believes there’s room for two distinct breweries.

“Have breweries hit a saturation point? They said that same thing about wineries many years ago,” Price said, pointing out that there are now more than 300 wineries in the state. “As long as there are taprooms downtown for the public, they love it. It’s a gathering spot for everybody.”

Price also said he could imagine other stores moving in to piggyback off of the traffic brought in by the two breweries. He hopes that this synergy will bring in new businesses and extra attention to the town.

“We’re excited for Strasburg. I think it’s going to generate a lot of interest, excitement, possibly more businesses moving into town to be around it because of the foot traffic,” Price said. “I could see it exploding. I could.”