New ideas are brewing for Uptown Martinsville. Herb Atwell and Peggy Donivan, the husband-and-wife duo who own Mountain Valley Brewing in Axton, have purchased the former Daystar building at 32 Franklin Street in Uptown Martinsville with the intent to open a new brewpub in the space in 2023.
“We looked at Martinsville for the past couple of years and saw it starting to change,” Atwell said. “To us, it’s like a blank slate. We had the opportunity to become a part of that. It looks like the chance to bring to Martinsville the environment we’ve created here (at Mountain Valley.) It won’t be exactly the same, but the people will be the same, and part of creating what we do here are the people. Hopefully we can do that in Martinsville so the people of Martinsville can have a place to call their own.”
Renewal Brewing is the name Donivan and Atwell have settled on for their new business venture.
“We looked for a name for a while,” Atwell said.
“We wanted something that would represent what we want to bring to Martinsville, a spark” said Donivan.
“And for Martinsville to have a renewed outlook,” Atwell added. “Hopefully, not only us but other businesses that come to the area will promote growth for other businesses to come and for other people to want to come and stay and live and work and be a thriving community,” he said. “We’ve seen that is so many other towns we’ve been to that have been like Martinsville, then a brewery or a restaurant opens up or a bookstore opens up or a toy store. There are so many things that build upon each other. We just want to be one of those blocks in the pyramid.”
Donivan pointed out that the new brewpub will not only be for the Martinsville community, but the county and surrounding areas too.
“We heard for a long time from a lot of people out in Bassett, Fieldale, and those areas, ‘if you were just a little bit closer and not so remote (Mountain Valley Brewing is just over 14-miles from the city), we would spend more time there.’”
With this new endeavor, the couple is fulfilling that wish.
“We thought long and hard about it,” Donivan said, “but if we didn’t do it, somebody else was going to eventually. We wanted it to be us.”
Donivan said the pair had not even considered a Martinsville location. That seed was planted during a visit by Uptown Partnership Executive Director Kathy Deacon who, after looking at the Axton operation, asked the two if they had ever considered opening a Martinsville brewery.
Last October, the couple attended a First Friday event at the historic courthouse in Uptown.
“There was a good turnout and we looked around and thought how nice it would be if the storefronts along the streets by the courthouse were lit up,” Donivan recalled. “You could see where you could have foot traffic and people milling about, it’s just not there yet. I saw the (Daystar) building and just thought, ‘Wow. Look at that. That would be a great location.’ We didn’t know who owned it, we didn’t know anything about it, we didn’t even pursue it at all. It was just a thought, that it would be a perfect spot.”
Fate intervened when the building’s owner, Mervyn King, paid a visit to Mountain Valley and the three struck up a conversation.
“We were talking about growth in Martinsville,” Atwell recalled. “He was talking about bringing something to Martinsville and how it was changing. We started talking about the building and found out he owned it.”
Not only that, but King was open to selling.
In total, four partners came together to purchase the property from King for $200,000, Atwell said, though he declined to share the names of the other partners in the deal. In total, they estimate they will put about $750,000 into renovating the space ahead of opening to the public to create the type of environment that is so central to their identity at their current brewery.
That environment, Donivan said, is “safe, inviting, friendly. We have a lot of locals and a lot of newcomers, and nobody leaves here a stranger. We have a good crowd, respectful, nobody is drunk or disorderly. We want a place where people can have fun, hang out, and relax.”
“A social meeting place,” Atwell added.
He said the basement will house the brewing operation itself, with some additional space to rent to groups who want a private space to gather.
The main floor will house the bar, perhaps a performance space, and a kitchen which, at least initially, will focus on pizza and small bites.
“One of the major things that people wanted to see in town was a nice pizza place,” Atwell said. “Hopefully, that promotes growth for nice restaurants—come in (to Renewal), meet your friends, have a beer, then go to a nice dinner or go see a show at the Black Box Theatre. Or stay and eat pub food.”
Additionally, Atwell said, “since it’s a flat roof, we’ve looked at rooftop seating. It overlooks the historic courthouse where First Fridays and other events are taking place, and it’s a beautiful setting with the mountains in the background behind the courthouse.”
Donivan noted that each level of the building will have a theme, centered around Renewal’s effort to respect the past while embracing the future. The basement will feature historical décor as an homage to the past (Atwell said the building was originally built in the 1890s, became an A&P grocery store in the 30s and has served multiple other uses.) The main floor will be anchored in the present, warm and inviting, while the rooftop space will look towards the future.
“We might have some self-service beer on tap or something else cool (on the roof) to bring the past into the future,” she said.
Though it will be operated by the same people, regulars at Mountain Valley Brewing should not expect to find their go-to favorite brews on tap at Renewal.
“It will be a completely new slate of beers,” Atwell said. “Same quality, same value, same great taste,” but different recipes. Donivan said they hope to have six flagship beers and six rotating taps.
“We are going to be very particular about our management,” Donivan said. Atwell agreed, saying that building the right team is one of their biggest challenges.
“We’ll be putting a team together over the next few months,” he said, “even though we aren’t planning to open until next year, we still want to put together the team, get to know them, and get them to know what we’re doing and be a part of the family. I think that’s a key of making it successful, making your employees and the people you trust to work with you feel like they’re a part of the business. It’s not just our venture, it’s everybody’s venture. It’s for the employees, it’s for the city, it’s for the people who come visit.”
“We want to grow into a destination for Martinsville,” Donivan said. “We want to grow into a place that people go for a St. Patrick’s Day Party or a yoga club meeting or anything else.”
Ultimately, Atwell said, “we want to grow the community with the community.”