Brewery, art studio among new businesses coming to downtown Philipsburg
Twenty-nine-year-old Brent Baskin sits at an old wooden table in a brick building on Front Street that he helped renovate. The patched the wooden floors, tin ceilings and chandeliers remain. They’ve added a bar, silver beer tanks and a mix of antique furniture.
"I can’t even describe how I’m gonna feel when I see people sitting here and enjoying beer.”
He's sitting in The Dead Canary Brewing Co., a brewery that Baskin and business partner Eric Kelmenson are set to open around summer’s end.
Residents of Philipsburg, a town on the western edge of Centre County, are getting excited about two new businesses opening soon downtown: The Dead Canary and ARTery. There’s hope these businesses might signal a new era for Philipsburg.
Baskin has no roots in the area, but the project was pitched to him a couple of years ago by Kelmenson. At the time, Kelmenson was president of the Philipsburg Revitalization Corporation, a group that aims to host events, attract businesses and care for older properties in Philipsburg, all to help bring new visitors and develop its economy.
Baskin said Kelmenson is heavily involved with the town and owns several properties there.
“[Kelmenson] has a big interest in getting Philipsburg to a place where people are really excited about it," Baskin said.
Eric Rusnak is the current president of the PRC. He said The Dead Canary and other incoming businesses make for an exciting time.
“We have a group of people here who are really energized about making the town better," Rusnak said. "I think the town is at a turning point. We’re going to see a lot of progress this summer, and that’s exciting.”
Rusnak said The Dead Canary and an art studio named ARTery are moving into and revamping older buildings on Front Street that had been empty for years. He has high hopes for what they can do for Philipsburg.
“What we hope is that those businesses will drive other businesses to come in," Rusnak said. "And we hope to get it to a critical mass where people will find a number of things to do in downtown Philipsburg.”
The Dead Canary will be Philipsburg’s first brewery since 1941. Baskin said the name is a nod to Philipsburg’s coal mining history, when birds were used to warn miners about gas leaks. He said the name also harkens back to a time when coal mining and lumber supported the town’s economy.
“We’re trying to bring Philipsburg back a little bit," Baskin said. "It had its heyday and it’s seen a little bit of a decline, but we really wanna try and kind of revive it.”
Baskin said the brewery will open with six taps, offering a house-brewed cream ale, IPAs and potentially smoked or sour beers. Baskin said he’d be content to just be an in-town mainstay.
“Our focus is just having a cool community space," he said. "We’re not out here trying to blow up and be the next huge craft brewery, we really just want a space that people in Philipsburg can come out to have a drink, be excited to take their friends to.”
Baskin is bringing eight years of home brewing experience to the business. He admitted to some nerves throughout the process of The Dead Canary, but he said he’s confident it can be successful.
"We’re super, super stoked to have people come out,” he said.
A few doors down on Front Street, ARTery is another business coming to Philipsburg. It’s run by artist duo Lynn Anne Verbeck and Adrienne Waterston. Waterston said it will be a common space to create art, with a small coffee shop attached. Like Baskin, she envisions a relaxed community space.
“We hope to have a space where people feel comfortable just coming in and hanging out," Waterston said. "We’re imaging acoustic music and poetry slams, and we’d like to have classes and memberships.”
ARTery will focus on Waterston and Verbeck’s backgrounds: silkscreen painting and pottery.
Philipsburg is home for Verbeck; she grew up here and returned after graduating from The State University of New York at New Paltz.
Waterston said there’s plenty she likes about the town in its current state, in addition to its affordability compared to State College, where she lives.
“I love old towns," Waterston said. "And the energy that’s coming into the town, you can tell the PRC has been really trying to help make it a welcoming place for people to come in, and it’s in a beautiful setting.”
Both businesses are different than most of Philipsburg’s previous ventures. But Rusnak hopes they’re just what downtown Philipsburg needs to thrive again.
“Front Street began to look kind of like a ghost town," Rusnak said. "And we have all these beautiful buildings, some of them are architecturally significant, so our hope is to find new businesses that fit well in Philipsburg and bring back a sense of community.”
In addition to The Dead Canary and ARTery, Rusnak said the area will also soon feature a tourist heritage center and an archery shop. Average Jack Archery already has a YouTube channel with more than 45,000 subscribers.