President’s MessageThe Tumwater Chamber took the February Forum on the road for a private tour of the manufacturing areas of the Olympia Brewery last Tuesday. Thanks to our host and guides Troy Dana, Senna Bailey, and Jessica Dana.
So, What’s Up with the Brewery?
It was a fascinating experience to walk the hallways and climb the stairs which had been the corridors and pathways for hundreds of people in the past, ranging from workers, to visitors, to entrepreneurs, to visionaries. The past activities and history of its existence are evidence of the richness of the city of Tumwater that has served as host and partner to the brewery over the years.
As we all know, the plant opened for business in 1896 as Capital Brewing Company, which later became the Olympia Brewing Co., in 1902. Its founder, Leopold Schmidt, who was a successful man and political figure was inspired by the quality of the water in Tumwater and adopted the slogan ‘It’s the Water’ to promote its flagship product. This slogan was combined with the horseshoe as its trademark because Schmidt wanted to display a key component of the family’s coat of arms. Ever wondered why the horseshoe? Now you know!
In his biography it is documented that Mr. Schmidt guided his business using a simple principle: ‘Quality first – Quantity next,’ and with that in mind Leopold Schmidt created one of the most popular regional beer brands in the Pacific Northwest for more than a half a century, in spite of the many challenges they faced, including the prohibition years.
The Olympia Brewery however experienced flat revenues from 1970 to 1980 and the Schmidt family, who still owned and operated the brewery, decided to sell the company to G. Heileman Brewing Company in 1983. Subsequent years did not prove to be better and the Olympia Brewery ownership passed through several corporations until it was eventually purchased by Miller Brewing Co. In 2002 SAB bought out Miller and closed the Olympia Brewery on June 2003 stating the unprofitability of such a small brewery.
Since the region has not given up on such a special part of its history, potential, or dreams, the City of Tumwater conducted a visionary exercise with other public entities and hundreds of members of the public. The Old Brewery house was purchased by Centralia developer George Heidgerken and business partner Patrick Rhodes for future commercial development. The manufacturing areas are under contract according to Mr. Troy Dana, of Dana Commercial Realty, who has the property listed for sale and has become for all practical purposes the manager of the property, protecting it from vandalism and opening the doors for interested parties.
While there are no definite plans for the site at the moment, or at least known plans, there is plenty of interest and we are hoping to see the site become a destination in the future that will spark prosperity and excitement for future generations to enjoy.
Clarita Mattox, President