New pop-up beer garden in Kennett Square embraced by community

FRAN MAY)E - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Pictured from left: Mike Bontrager, owner of the Creamery pop-up beer garden in Kennett Square, his wife Dot, and Sandra Mulry.
FRAN MAY)E - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIA Pictured from left: Mike Bontrager, owner of the Creamery pop-up beer garden in Kennett Square, his wife Dot, and Sandra Mulry.
FRAN MAYE - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIAValerie Veaton and Kyle Margiotta from West Chester enjoy a game of corn hole at Kennett Square's newest pop-up beer garden on Birch Street.
FRAN MAYE - DIGITAL FIRST MEDIAValerie Veaton and Kyle Margiotta from West Chester enjoy a game of corn hole at Kennett Square's newest pop-up beer garden on Birch Street.

KENNETT SQUARE >> Birch Street, a largely blighted area for more than a decade due to the vacancy of the old Eastern Condensed Milk Co., got new life Friday night with grand opening of The Creamery, a unique pop-up beer garden.

“This is an amazing concept,” said Valerie Veaton of West Chester. “I just happened to drive by here yesterday and I am extremely impressed. This is like something you would see in Europe. I wish we had one of these in West Chester.”

Hundreds of people attended the grand opening, and parking was a challenge at times. Parents pushed babies in strollers, children played board games or cornhole, live music filled the air, and there was a sense of community that the area hasn’t experienced in quite some time.

“What we wanted and what we dreamed of is having a space where many different people of all ages can come,” said Mike Bontrager, Creamery owner who partnered with Philadelphia’s Groundswell Design Group. “We have games, and what we have is a place where people can be community and just hang out together.”

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The Creamery featured food and drink from Charlie Collazo of the Institute Bar and Doug Hager of Whetstone Tavern and Brauhaus Schmitz in Philadelphia. Menu offerings from chef Jeremy Nolen will include everything from sandwiches and salads to grilled sausages and burgers. The pop-up bar had four draft cocktails, a rotating selection of wine and canned beer, as well as 16 craft brews on tap including perpetual summer favorite 21st Amendment’s Hell or High Watermelon along with a number of seasonable local selections. Local shop The Produce Place offered a selection of fresh cut fruit, smoothies, sandwiches and salads served daily out of a rustic wood barn from Bontrager’s family farm. Hood BBQ food truck offered local fare, including their famed “Hoodie.”

“We see this as a cutting edge project,” said Mary Hutchins, executive director of Historic Kennett Square. “This was a run-down and underutilized industrial site. We are grateful to Mike (Bontrager) and his team for putting this together and making another destination in Kennett Square. We hope this is the start of the redevelopment of Birth Street.”

Bontrager said focus will be on local bands and artists with a rotating schedule of live music. Games will also be available in the form of bocce ball, corn hole, and a variety of table games, he said. A children’s area also features tyke-sized picnic tables as well as games and activities to keep little ones entertained.

Matt Fetick Kennett Square mayor who attended the grand opening, said he was impressed.

“Mike and his team took an area that was totally blighted and had no signs of life and now I think it is a destination for people to come to.”

But Bontrager and The Creamery only have permission to operate until the end of the year, because borough council granted them a temporary permit. Fetick said he feels the owners wanted to see how successful the venture became before attempting to secure a full-time application.

Shelley Mincer attended the grand opening with her husband, and said she remembers picking up big chunks of ice at the Eastern Condensed Milk Co., and she likes what it has transformed into.

“It’s interesting, it’s different,” she said. “But when it gets really hot in the summer, I don’t see any fans or air-conditioning. But as long as the beer is good, it’s OK.”

The Creamery is open Thursdays through Sundays through Sept. 30. Hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Thursday, 11 a.m. to midnight on Friday and Saturday, and noon to 10 p.m. on Sunday. However, alcohol service hours are 5 to 10 p.m. on Thursday, 5 p.m. to midnight Friday, 2 p.m. to midnight Saturday and noon to 10 on Sunday.

About the Author

Fran Maye

Fran Maye is an award-winning journalist and a graduate of Shippensburg University. He and his wife Marianne live in East Marlborough. He enjoys golf and is a 4.0 tennis player. Reach the author at kennettpaper@gmail.com or follow Fran on Twitter: @kennettpaper.