By Jeremy Ratliff
Last fall, a building once used as a DNR Ranger Station on East Tenth Street in Merrill faced an uncertain future. That is until entrepreneurial minded Stan Janowiak, a Merrill native, and his partners discovered the building up for sealed bid auction.
“We set out wanting to do something positive for Merrill,” Janowiak explained. “We decided a brew pub was the way to go, it would be a great way to attract people to Merrill. Once we had decided exactly what it was we wanted to do, we started looking for a building.”
Janowiak and his partners initially set about searching for a starting point in the river district, but economics led them elsewhere.
“By the time we found the former ranger station, the auction had already ended. We thought we had missed out, but the city ended up re-bidding the property due to not receiving a favorable bid the first time,” Janowiak said. “We put in a bid and it was approved. We closed on the property last December.”
Prior to embarking on his most recent venture, the married father of two graduated from UW-Madison and had worked as a middle school science teacher as well as a beef farmer before returning to his hometown.
Janowiak’s vision for “Sawmill Brewing Company” includes a brew room and taphouse on the lower level of the building, as well as some type of dining area. As a creative twist, Janowiak has another idea in mind to remove the middle portion of the second level and convert that into a balcony seating area instead.
“It’s really too early to tell exactly how it will all come together,” he added, as he stands in a scenic area to the west of the building, which may soon become a beer garden. “The location here is extraordinary and I feel many Merrill residents may not realize this building is even here.”
As an expression of homage to the location and historical significance of the building, Janowiak plans to leave as much of the current structural and walls as is.
“I want to emphasize our goal here is to bolster the local economy rather than compete with it,” he said. “That is another reason we opted for the brew pub idea. It is something we don’t have and unlike anything we have. To avoid competing with local taverns, we plan to be closed by 9 p.m., and perhaps even create relationships where they sell our brews! There are so many possibilities and options with a project like this.”
As for a time-line of completion, Janowiak and his partners hope to meet with officials from the state of Wisconsin this week to finalize building plans. Once submitted, it could take up to 45 days to receive a reply.
Once approval is given, a licensed structural architect will be selected and construction will begin.
“The city would like to see a viable business up and running within one year from the date of closing, which would be December,” Janowiak added. “We are working very hard to meet that time-line. I think a winter opening would actually be a good thing for us.”
By Jeremy Ratliff