(Adds comment from PennDOT) Penn Beer, the warehouse and trucking outfit that hauls Budweiser, Becks, Victory, Yards and other beers to taverns on the Main Line and beyond, is moving from its longtime Domino Lane base in Philadelphia to the 300,000-square-foot warehouse that is home to Gretz Brothers' beer distribution operations in Hatfield Township, later this year, say people familiar with the plan.
Both Penn and Gretz distribute Anheuser-Busch beers and other products from the multinational InBev breweries group; the move consolidates the company's suppliers in the region.
Hatfield Township officials said they welcome Penn Beer and looked forward to the increased employment it will bring to the Gretz site. "Any growth in a business in Hatfield is a great thing we embrace," said township manager Aaron Bibro.
The Hatfield building was built in 2001 for Otis Elevator's Cemco Lift subsidiary, which shut in 2012, idling nearly 100 workers. Gretz, a family business that traces its roots to the late 1800s, expanded to the Hatfield building from its Norristown headquarters the following year.
Hatfield has become more desirable as a warehousing center in recent years, since township commissioners and PennDOT accelerated a series of road projects, including improvements to Pennsylvania 309 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike (I-476) toll road, Bibro said. A planned connector road linking 309 to the Lansdale exit of the Turnpike will also help speed trucks and other traffic in and out of township industries, he added.
By contrast, trucks from Domino Lane pass through congested Manayunk. One of Philadelphia's early industrial neighborhoods, Manayunk has attracted increased residential development in recent years, slowing access for truckers through the narrow bridge across the Schuylkill, at the foot of Green Lane, which connects the neighborhood to I-76 and the Main Line suburbs beyond.
Penn officials declined Friday to talk about their plans. Mike Gretz, a member of the longtime Philadelphia beer family that owns Gretz Brothers, wasn't immediately available for comment. Drivers and other workers at both locations are represented by Teamsters Local 830.
Word that Penn Beer plans a move stoked speculation in the neighborhood as to whether it could be followed by road improvements.
Manayunk developers have long sought a modern bridge near the foot of Domino Lane to the west. (There was a covered bridge there linking water-powered mills on both river banks in the mid-1800s.) A new bridge would make industrial properties around the old Flat Rock Road paper mill complex more attractive to redevelopment.
But PennDOT spokesman Brad Rudolph sought to squelch any such rumors. "Nope," Rudolph replied when my colleague Jason Laughlin asked if PennDOT had any plans for another Bridge at that site.