PANAMA CITY, Fla.- There’s still work to do post-hurricane Michael when it comes to cleaning up and rebuilding but there are some who aren’t discouraged by the damage.
Two local men are planning to help revitalize downtown, one beer at a time by opening a brewery focused around the history of Bay County.
“We started looking at buildings and everyone we went in, we were like, this could be a brewery,” said Co-Founder History Class Brewing, Tim Whaler.
Tim whaler and Allan Branch said they’ve been waiting to open a brewery for years now.
The idea came to them in 2017 and they found the perfect home on the corner of 4th and Luverne avenue for what they will soon call, History Class brewing.
“History class is about telling stories and we’re going to do that through our beers, and all the little things. We have the Bay High gym floors which will be all the table tops and scattered through the whole place will be remnants from our town with little pieces of our history and opportunities to tell these stories,” said Co-Founder History Class Brewing, Allan Branch.
For months, Branch has been preparing the building and collecting items from all over the county that hold some type of historic value to the area.
They hope amid all the destruction that this new business will help spruce up downtown. “The goal is to get the community in here so we can get together and talk about the future of Panama City and what downtown can be,” said Whaler.
Allan Branch has lived here all his life and says he’s always seen the potential for growth. “We’re here because other businesses downtown have inspired us. So we would love to further inspire other people in this really, really important time that we rebuild Panama City,” he said.
However, starting it up hasn’t been the easiest process. With Hurricane Michael and the government shutdown, it’s made things a little trickier…not to mention the lack of contractors available to help make this dream a reality.
“The tradesmen in this town are so busy right now, it’s hard to get them to show up and give estimates so we’re lucky to have other construction projects and we’re using the same tradesmen there, but everyone is very busy and under a lot of stress,” said Branch.
Although it can be a difficult process, Panama City Mayor, Greg Brudnicki said bringing business to the area right now is worth it.
He said opportunity zones across the city are offering investments like never before. “Some company or individual can take capital gains from either stock sales or land or capital sales that they make.. take those gains and reinvest them in an opportunity zone,” said Brudnicki.
Right now, there’s more property than usual.
“We do have properties available, there’s a lot of it that needs to be probably repaired but if you have the wherewithal, we are very very business friendly. They have the opportunity now to be in on the ground floor, they have the opportunity to probably be involved where the price is as reasonable as it’s ever going to be because it’s going to go up, so just hang on because it’s going to be good,” said Brudnicki.
For History Class brewing, it’s not just about celebrating the history, but making it.
“Panama City is the people and businesses and if we don’t build back our businesses we don’t have a town. So we do hope we inspire other people and continue the spark downtown,” said Branch.
“The community isn’t the buildings. it’s the people and the activity and the relationships that people are going to form are going to happen at the businesses downtown where they’re bumping into everybody they know,” said Whaler.
For Branch, he hopes to put downtown back on its feet while also creating a legacy.
“I hope our grandkids are running them just like my grandfather’s grandkids are running his businesses now. I’d love to see this business here for 70 years,” he said.
They hope to open History Class Brewing in July but say it may be pushed back to August.
If you’re looking to start a business of your own, you can head to the new city hall which is now a one-stop shop when it comes to permitting and business needs.