23rd Ave Brewery opens in downtown Seattle

Brothers David and James Dixon and Mario Savage are childhood friends. They grew up in downtown Seattle in the 90s, just blocks from their brand new brewery located at 23rd Avenue and Jackson Street.

Locals called this block the “Promenade”. David Dixon said it was once where people went for all their shopping, from groceries to haircuts.

“This block was completely different. I remember when Starbucks was new, there was a flower shop where Catfish Corner is now, there were tons of hair salons all along the row,” did he declare.

Before there was a seven-story apartment complex with an Amazon Fresh, this block was full of black and minority-owned businesses. Fifty years ago, 70% of the inhabitants of the central district were black. Today, less than one in five people living here are black.

Savage and the Dixon brothers had all moved away from the Central District years earlier when they started brewing beer together in 2018. Yet when they decided to turn their hobby into a business, they wanted a name that represented where they came from. So they settled on “23rd Ave Brewery.” But Savage said they assumed there was no way to find space on the avenue they could afford.

“We felt like we’d be back in, like, ‘X’ years,” Savage said. “We were really looking for the outskirts of Seattle.”

In Seattle, a city with more than 70 breweries, the 23rd Ave Brewery is one of only two black-owned.

Then they saw a 500 square foot micro unit available outside this new apartment complex. Right there at 23rd Ave and Jackson. Where the Promenade used to be.

“I mean, it’s literally like s— is written in the stars. Like it’s something, you know, like it’s supposed to be s—” Savage said.

When Vulcan Real Estate announced plans to redevelop the block in 2016, the public reacted. The Central District community saw it as another sign of the gentrification they were fighting against.

In response to this feedback, Vulcan decided to add three micro retail spaces. All three are occupied by black-owned businesses – a florist, a skincare store and now the brewery.

James Dixon says they were able to open for around $20,000, a fraction of the typical cost.

“This micro unit really gave us the opportunity to try and use some of our money in a different way because it was so cheap.”

In Seattle, a city with more than 70 breweries, the 23rd Ave Brewery is one of only two black-owned.

When Savage and the Dixon Brothers decided to turn their hobby into a business, they chose the name “23rd Ave Brewery” to represent where they came from.

At the grand opening in June, Terrell Jackson welcomed brothers Dixon and Savage with hushpuppies and catfish. Jackson is the owner of Catfish Corner, the southern comfort food restaurant across the street.

“Welcoming them to the neighborhood because it feels good now to have people — my peers — opening their doors and earning income to take care of their families,” Jackson said.

Catfish Corner was an institution in the Central District from the 1980s until 2014 when they were forced to close due to unpaid rent and taxes. It was only last year that they were able to come back.

“It feels good that these guys are opening up today. It’s good that these guys are part of the solution,” Jackson said.

The Dixon and Savage brothers welcomed a steady stream of family and friends, as well as strangers. Imani Sims couldn’t contain her excitement to see another black-owned business open in the neighborhood, where she grew up and was eventually sold.

“I hope it’s going to be a beacon and everyone is like, yeah, oh, I’m going to go back to my hometown and hang out,” Sims said.

For the Dixon and Savage brothers, the grand opening of their brewery was more than just a celebration – it was a homecoming.

“We are here, right? So we better make some good beer, right? said David.

The opening celebration was supposed to last four hours, but it only took an hour before they completely sold out 100 gallons of beer.

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