Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch (center) with East Troy Brewery owners Ann and Ted Zess the Oct. 2 reception to celebrate the brewery receiving a $250,000 state grant. (Tracy Ouellette photo)

Money to be used in East Troy Brewery construction

By Tracy Ouellette

SLN Staff

The Village of East Troy has been awarded a $250,000 grant from the state to help finance the renovation of the old State Bank building into a microbrewery.
Ann and Ted Zess are turning the old bank building into a brew pub, the project has been under construction for about a year and the realization of a five-year dream for the Zesses. The Zesses are the majority owners of the East Troy Brewery, which is expected to open before the end of the year.

The brewery hosted a reception Oct. 2 to celebrate the Community Development Investment Grant.

The building, on the southwest corner of the Village Square, is more than 120 years old and has been vacant since 2017. The Zesses are restoring the building to look a little closer to its 1892 appearance.

Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch announced the grant in East Troy at the reception, which included Sen. Steve Nass and Derek D’Auria of the Walworth County Economic Development Alliance.

“This is a really fantastic building,” Kleefisch said during the announcement. “And we all know what is going to happen here, we’re all going to be able to toast to how great East Troy is.”

Kleefisch added that the Zesses, and their history of civic service, are a “wonderful example to CEOs in Wisconsin and to the entire community.”

“This project will not only bring a new business to downtown East Troy, which will create jobs and attract visitors, but it also will preserve a piece of the village’s history by redeveloping a building that is more than a century old,” Kleefisch stated in a press release.

Village Board President Scott Seager also spoke on how inspiring the Zesses commitment to the community was and how much they were appreciated in East Troy.

Ann and Ted Zess expressed their gratitude to the state for the opportunity to be part of the grant program and for the support of the village, community and area businesses. They thanked several village officials and the Village Board, the East Troy Area Chamber of Commerce and multiple others who have helped out over the last year.

Ann Zess recounted a story of the first time she voiced her desire to open a brew pub in the bank building. She said it was at a community visioning meeting in 2012 and when those gathered were asked for thoughts, she said “brew pub.”

Village of East Troy Parks and Recreation Director Vickie Muszynski asked her to clarify what she just said.

“So I said ‘brew pub’ louder,” Ann Zess said. “And Vickie said, ‘Oh, I thought you said group hug!’”

Ann Zess said considering some of the challenges they’ve faced during the construction, it probably should have been a “group hug.”

“We even joked that we should name the brewery Group Hug,” Ann Zess said with a laugh.

Once open, the East Troy Brewery will employ up to 12 full-time workers and between 10 and 20 part-time workers.

The renovation work and business startup will cost about $2.5 million and is being funded by the WEDC grant, the Community Development Block Grant revolving loan fund from the Village of East Troy, bank financing from Park Bank and local investors.

Since the grant program began in 2013, WEDC has awarded more than $22 million in grants for projects expected to generate more than $300 million in capital investment.



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