In October 2012, Kent Bailey faced a fork in the road with bringing his new venture, Coppertail Brewing, to fruition.
The location of the business – a former warehouse right on the edge of Ybor City just across Adamo Drive from retail behemoth Ikea – was perfect.
But the building was so old and decrepit that concrete weights were anchored along the ground to support the shell. The walls needed reconstructing. A railroad track ran through its center.
Bailey, however, was smitten.
"It was old, it was rundown," he said. "But what appealed to me was the history."
In its previous lives, the building housed — among other ventures — a newsprint business, a Hellman's mayonnaise plant, and the Sevilla Olive Packing Co., where workers hand-packed the fruit.
A successful renovation wasn't impossible, but it was a longshot. Bailey either could jump ship now and find another less-troublesome spot or keep going further down into an abyss.
Bailey and his team, which includes brewmaster Casey Hughes, chose the latter.
"An inspector said its old but could last for years," he said. "We said 'We can do this.'"
The former attorney-turned-brewmaster wasn't about to give up on his dream after spending years stirring up his homebrew on his stove on weekends for friends and family.
When the brewery finally opened in 2014, Bailey recognized it was worth the hard work and tough times.
"It was more like a purpose," he said. "I just wanted it so bad."
Bailey said Ybor was the clear favorite over trendy downtown or up-and-coming Seminole Heights.
"It fills me with pride that we can help this corner," he said. "It's part of our identity, this location."
Today, Coppertail is an anchor business in a part of Ybor that's seeing some revitalization. The brewery's transformation also is a wonder. A space that used to house heavy industrial machinery now boasts plush leather couches, modern lighting fixtures, and eclectic artwork.
But a brewery is still a manufacturing business and the evidence of that is behind the tasting room, where large tanks that almost reach the ceiling hold 4,650 gallons of beer, or 2,000 cases.
Next to the tasting, an approximate 10,000 square foot warehouse is undergoing renovation to repair the building's foundation. The renovation, which is projected to be completed in the summer, will expand the brewery's production capability.
The decision to renovate is another sign of Bailey's commitment to Ybor City.
Four beers are available year-round at Coppertail, with seasonal flavors and specials offered throughout the year.
On a weekend night, it's common to find the brewery teeming with hops heads guzzling down glasses of brews with unusual names like Free Dive, Gucci Mango, and Night Swim.
"I've been happy to see there are people coming to this side of town," he said.
Taylor Lentz and girlfriend Bailey Kessler were among patrons hanging out on a recent weekday night celebrating a friend's birthday on the brewery's porch.
Thanks to Coppertail's friendly bar tenders, cool vibe, and tasty brews, the two Brandon residents frequently visit, Lentz said.
"It's kind of like Cheers," he said. "It's close."
Lentz said he especially appreciates how 7th Avenue's artsy vibe has found its way to Coppertail.
"And the beer is delicious," he said, sipping on the Free Dive.
Kessler, a Night Swim fan, concurred.
"It's a good location for those of us in Brandon," she said.
Business is booming: sales from last year are double what they were in 2015. And this year is on track to increase by 65 percent over 2016.
The brewery is adding on to its staff of 30 and Bailey's looking to expand east to Jacksonville.
Coppertail products have performed well there at local beer festivals, Bailey said.
It's also sold at a handful of outlets in Philadelphia. But don't expect to see Wheat Stroke across the nation just yet. Bailey said he'd first like to see Coppertail's territory expand up the I-95 corridor.
"We have to walk before we run and keep our focus on where it is," he said.
And that is primarily on the brewery itself.
"It's been a dream come true to see it realized," he said. "At the end of the day, it's all about the liquid."
Contact Kenya Woodard at [email protected]