by Sheldon Ocker
Richfield Village officials have been on a mission to energize the downtown Historic District and turn it into something of a destination zone.
The influx of Cleveland water, additional parking and burying electric lines serve that objective, as does Olesia’s Taverne of Richfield. Now, along comes Mike Lytz, who owns Sarah’s Vineyard on Steels Corners Road in Cuyahoga Falls. Lytz and his wife Margaret, who died in May 2022, began searching more than two years ago for property on which to build a craft brewery and restaurant.
Vacant land south of Wheatley Road and east of Brecksville Road caught the couple’s attention in 2021, and they sought a meeting with village administrators.
“Brian Frantz [village director of planning, zoning and economic development] said he might have a better option,’’ Lytz said.
That option was 3871 Broadview Rd., in the heart of the Historic District. Village residents knew that address. It was the former office of Dr. Randolph Heinle, an icon of the community who, in 2018, retired at 80, after 55 years of practicing medicine.
Lytz liked the location and purchased two-thirds of an acre (the entire property encompasses 1.83 acres) for $215,000 from the village, which purchased the land from the Heinle estate to control its future use.
The first dirt was scheduled to be moved on May 22, and Lytz is hoping to hold a ceremonial groundbreaking in June. He estimates construction of the 5,000-square-foot Richfield Brewing Company will take nine months and hopes to be open to the public early in 2024.
But before he is ready to entertain customers, Lytz said he needs a head start of at least a month to begin making beer before opening. Beer will be the star of the show.
The number and types of beers made at the brewery hasn’t been definitively determined, but Lytz has brainstormed several names:
Minute Man Lager, One If by Land (single malt), Two If by Sea (double malt), all tributes to Revere Schools; Kirby’s Mill Marzen, which references one of Richfield’s historic citizens; John Brown Ale and Safe House Stout, recognizing the part Richfield played in the Underground Railroad; and Dewey Decimal Double Malt, because even the library wants to be in on the action.
“They were excited about our being here and asked us to think of a library name,’’ Lytz said. The Richfield branch of the Akron-Summit Public Library is a couple of hundred steps from the brewery site.
A wellhouse dating from the 1800s, Lytz was told, still stands on the property.
“It’s a hand dug well, lined with stones; you can see the water down there,’’ Lytz said. “The roof is timber frame shingles and it sits on a stone base.’’
Lytz plans to keep the structure and turn it into a wishing well dedicated to Margaret, with proceeds going to the Bath-Richfield Kiwanis.
The well also prompted a beer name: Wishing Well Wheat.
“The doctor ran his whole practice from that well,’’ Lytz said. “And the county said it has no record of it.’’
Lytz wanted to use water from the well in landscaping the property, but the county said the well must be sealed.
Plans are for the interior of the building to accommodate 175 customers with room for 50 more outdoors on two patios. Lytz said the design will be “upscale industrial.’’
He has collected parts and pieces from some unconventional places. He acquired several pews (that he will cover with cushions) from the African Orthodox Methodist Church in Coshocton. The brewing equipment came from the defunct John Harvard Brewing Company in Framingham, Mass., a suburb of Boston.
There are tables from Akron’s iconic West Hill Hardware that closed in 2021 after 90 years, and Lytz will use a fireplace and some stones from the demolished Heinle house.
Lytz obtained a bar from a Miami Beach house converted to a speakeasy during prohibition. But no patrons will be bellying up to this bar. The bar will be used exclusively as a service bar for bartenders and servers.
The menu hasn’t been firmed up, but Lytz said the restaurant will be casual; there are plans for an outdoor wood-fired pizza kitchen. “You’ll be able to get everything from a salad to a steak, but it won’t be pages and pages of stuff.’’
Customers will be able to order a beer and buy it retail. Liquor and wine will be available but not in endless variety. And because of a state law, Lytz cannot sell wine made at Sarah’s Vineyard. The emphasis will be on craft beer. ∞