YONKERS, N.Y. -- You can hear the excitement in Andy Fondak's voice when he talks about craft beer.
It's a subject the master brewer knows well, and soon the residents of Yonkers will know too when he and his father, Jeff Fondak, open Chicken Island Brewing now that their purchase of a 10,000-square-foot warehouse on the waterfront is final.
The $1.25 million purchase of the warehouse at 72 Alexander St. is another step in the father and son's adventure of becoming master craft beer brewers that has taken them across the ocean to Germany and back to Chicago, with plenty of stops in between learning how to make that perfect beer that will keep fans coming back for more.
“The Yonkers location is the perfect storm for us. Craft breweries have always thrived in areas ripe for revitalization. They bring communities together, and our brewery is no different," Fondak said. “The specific building we are planning to renovate is in a great location with outdoor seating potential next to the Metro North Hudson line and views of the Palisades and Hudson River across the street."
Don't make the mistake and think the two are just a couple of novice beer makers. Jeff Fondak, a retired dentist and military colonel, and Andy Fondak a former international market manager for those little Christmas tree air fresheners, learned their new craft at the World Brewing Academy, studying at both the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and Doemans Academy in Munich. All together they spent a couple of years learning the art of beer making.
And if dreams pay off, in the near future, the two will have created a beer distribution center and taphouse tasting room, along with future plans for an event space and restaurant.
"The waterfront in Yonkers is booming right now,” said Jennifer Maher, selling broker for J.Philip Commercial Group, who handled the sale. “Thanks to strategic marketing campaigns supported by Mayor Joe Spano, both businesses and residents, particularly the coveted millennial generation, are taking a second look at the city to live, work and play. The timing and opportunity for Chicken Island Brewing to establish itself in Yonkers couldn’t be better."
To produce their beer, which will be based mainly on "drinkability," said Fondak, they are in the process of purchasing imported German equipment from Kastar Schulv, who have been making brewing equipment since 1677 for high-quality production. Their plan is to combine European and American brewing techniques for that perfect beer, or line of beers.
"My dream is to start in-house and then expand to distribute across the state," Fondak said. "Part of the reason I became in involved in the business is the people who are so dedicated to the art of craft beer and their love and excitement of sampling something new. I hope to build that kind of excitement at Chicken Island."
And why the name Chicken Island? History, said Fondak.
During the late 1840s, an island was off Yonkers that earned the nickname Chicken Island because the owner kept a huge amount of chickens on the land. Adding interest to the story is the fact that a man named Edward Underhill built and ran a beer brewery on the island that was shipped into Yonkers and beyond during Prohibition. The island does not exist anymore, it was destroyed when a former mayor decided to do away with a dam that was an eyesore and destroyed the island in doing so.
"The building is a diamond in the rough, and once we receive all the required permits from the city, we hope to make it into a special place in the redevelopment of the Yonkers waterfront," Fondak said."The location is easy to get to. Only a 5-minute walk from the Metro North Yonkers station or a quick drive from northern Bronx, will put you right in front of our doors. All of these factors made the choice very apparent -- 72 Alexander St., will be the perfect spot for Chicken Island Brewing.”