A grande dame in downtown Macon is getting her second wind.
The next time you’re downtown, take a minute to go by 458 Second St. If you look closely, you’ll see the words “Independent Laundry Co.” in a blue-and-white tile mosaic across the building’s facade. The building -- more than 100 years old -- has been vacant for decades, but it is coming back to life thanks to Yash Patel and his father, Ashok. If restoration work continues on schedule, the site will open as Macon’s newest brewpub by spring, providing Yash a retail setting for the beer he crafts at his Macon Beer Co.
But there is plenty to do before then. It took almost a month to remove bricks -- many of them one by one -- that were covering historic beauty beneath, including the tile mosaic and a steel beam that runs horizontally across the front (look for the rivets). But that kind of care is important to the Patels.
“We’re trying to maintain the integrity of the building as it was designed,” Yash said. “Historic preservation is something I really enjoy.”
Added his father, “It’s going to look like the original building” when work is finished.
Key to their efforts since they closed on the building in August 2017 has been guidance from the Historic Macon Foundation.
“They’ve helped with the rules and regulations,” Yash said, as well as plenty of other particulars, including possible tax credits for the project.
“They have been very, very helpful,” added Ashok, whose company, Kunj Construction, is handling the rehab work. “It’s one of the best buildings in downtown.”
Most of the building’s brick was in good shape. In fact, Yash said he was most surprised at “how intact the entire facade was even in its current state.”
Once the facade work is done -- with windows restored or replaced and marble or granite touches in place -- that will be it. No paint for this facade, as has been the case at other renovated downtown buildings. At one time there was -- you guessed it -- a commercial laundry and dry cleaner in the left side of the building. (Old-timers will remember an orange Volkswagen van that drove around town to pick up laundry.) A Sherwin-Williams paint store once occupied the right side of the building.
When the Patels are finished, the new taproom (“Our lab,” Yash said, laughing) and restaurant will occupy the building’s right side, beside Bearfoot Tavern, and about 20 new lofts will eventually open on the left side. But that work will take another 18 months or so to finish. (You can follow the renovation progress on social media by following Macon Beer Co.)
The tile mosaic is among the most fetching features uncovered so far. An Italian immigrant skilled in the craft completed it in 1918, Ashok said. He’s trying to learn more about the building’s history and details as he can. And there’s an added touch of serendipity: The tile colors match those of Macon Beer Co.’s logo.
Second Street Corridor improvements have drawn plenty of attention -- and funding -- in recent years, and now a lot of energy is pouring into Poplar Street, with several new shops opening in recent months.
That’s an added incentive for the Patels: to take part in the downtown renaissance.
“We’ve always wanted to be part of the downtown scene, … the night scene,” Yash said. “It’s going to be good.”
We concur. How could a marriage of history and beer not be?