Brady Barlow, Joe Kuosman and Ben Self had a dream of opening a craft brewery with a local feel and a community focus. They searched for months for the perfect location and found it in a vacant industrial building which served as a bread bakery for over 100 years in a historic neighborhood in Lexington, Kentucky. They purchased the building in 2011 – all 90,000 square feet of it – and opened West Sixth Brewing in 2012. Since then, West Sixth has grown to become one of the top craft breweries in the state and, in the process, surrounded itself with a diverse collection of like-minded, community-focused organizations to create a unique mixed-use development known as the Bread Box.
Barlow, Kuosman and Self purchased the massive building knowing they didn’t need all the space and thought that perhaps the brewery would grow into it. Instead, some local businesses looking for a place of their own reached out to the West Sixth team and the rest is history. “The cool thing about our mix of businesses is that whenever you think about it, they’re a very unique set,” says Barlow. “We try to be very locally oriented and we wanted to have a mix but we feed off each other as well.”
Barlow tells me the building is officially 100% occupied, with West Sixth as the anchor business taking up 30,000 square feet of the total space. What follows is a peek into some of the unique businesses that make up the Bread Box, a space that has become a destination and gathering place for Lexington’s Northside neighborhood and beyond.
West Sixth Brewing
At the heart of the Bread Box, West Sixth Brewing has found much success in Kentucky’s local beer scene, with its IPA – the beer that put West Sixth on the map – the top selling craft beer in the state, according to Barlow.
“The reason we got into beer was one, we wanted to make great beer, two, we wanted to be a great place to work and the third reason was we wanted to give back to the community,” says Barlow, who detailed that last year West Sixth raised $130,000 for local organizations.
West Sixth Brewing cans 14 different types of beer throughout the year. At their taprooms in the Bread Box, West Sixth Greenroom (a nano-brewery serving site-specific brews) and West Sixth Farm (a rural escape in Frankfort situated on 120 acres of land) you’ll find several of these on tap plus special releases and more experimental brews featuring unique ingredients. Robin Sither, another co-owner of West Sixth, is the company's head brewer.
A unique kind of bike shop, Broke Spoke sells used bikes and parts, teaches people how to fix bikes and even offers a “sweat equity” program where those who can’t afford to pay can volunteer their time for $8 an hour. It is run completely by volunteers. “Our mission is to provide better access to better bicycles for all people and to empower individuals to perform their own bicycle maintenance,” reads the organization website.
FoodChain is a nonprofit organization working to connect the local community with fresh food via education and demonstration. This is achieved through running tours of its innovative aquaponics farm, educating producers about this sustainable agriculture method and teaching the general public where food comes from. FoodChain also teaches youth cooking classes, in which children from surrounding elementary schools learn basic cooking techniques and work with local produce, and runs monthly community meals featuring locally grown food that would have otherwise been thrown away.
Rollergirls of Central Kentucky
The Bread Box offers the perfect practice space for the Rollergirls of Central Kentucky (ROCK), which it now shares with a men’s and junior’s team. Rock is a skater-operated, skater-owned amateur women’s flat-track roller derby team that, in addition to competing at local, regional and national sporting events, gives back to the community.
Smithtown Seafood is a dining concept by beloved local restaurateur Ouita Michel with another outpost at The Barn, Kentucky’s first food hall. Michel is best known for championing local ingredients across her impressive restaurant portfolio, and Smithtown Seafood is no different. It doesn’t get any more local than the beer cheese made with West Sixth porter – served as a dip and offered as a burger and fries topping – and greens, shoots and lettuces from FoodChain featured in salads and wraps.