Watsonville’s newest business hub has found its home in a 8,640-square-foot, World War II-era naval building on Aviation Way. The space harkens back to when the Watsonville Municipal Airport was a military base surrounded by four 160-square foot shipping containers, fire pits and picnic tables. It’s now known as the Hangar.
The idea behind the Hangar bears some similarity to Santa Cruz’s Abbott Square Market, the food and drink hangout spot that opened two years ago in downtown and has since incorporated live music, monthly meetups and activities, quickly becoming a shared community space.
“We are going for something similar, but slightly different,” says co-owner and developer Kevin Dueck. “We want to have a retail component. We don’t want a ‘food court.’ We want a community hangout with other components besides food—like fitness and retail. And I think tenants and businesses want to see the space ‘happen’ before they commit.”
The inaugural business to open in the Hangar is Beer Mule, a brewpub brainchild of Beer Thirty’s owners that opened in the spring and takes up the majority of the space.
Opening night at Beer Mule was beyond what anyone expected, drawing upwards of 200 people—including some city councilmembers—to Watsonville’s newest and only taproom.
“I’ve seen a lot of birthday parties there, the city had an event there, there are other organizations and groups going there,” says Dueck. “It’s becoming a destination and establishing itself as an area to host events. I know that will grow as time goes on.”
Kevin and his brother Brian are behind the newly renovated hangar, and plan on leasing the rest of the space and other converted shipping containers to food, drink and retail businesses, including Mr. Z’s Crepes and Teas, Aloha Hola (a Hawaiian-Mexican grill fusion) and Zameen, a third outpost of the beloved meditteranan spot. Each is expected to open within the next few months.
“We are still working with other tenants, a person who is going to do coffee and breakfast. We are just finalizing some details,” Dueck says. “We are also looking for tenants interested in offering ice cream, or fitness classes like yoga. We are talking to a few people, but nothing has landed just yet.”
Dueck adds that there’s one container that will likely be dedicated to mimosas and sangria. “It’s an idea that will most likely happen, but we haven’t inked the deal yet,” he says.
The Hangar was engineered by Cianciarulo Construction, which the Dueck brothers partnered with for not only their project but also Cat and Cloud, Abbott Square Market, West End Tap and Kitchen, Humble Sea Brewery, and Discretion Brewery.
A bike shop, dog grooming facility and hair salon are other ideas Dueck says could be possibilities for the Hangar. While the Dueck brothers don’t live in Watsonville, Kevin says they have a good sense of the community based on their Yogurtland franchise on Main Street that opened in 2012. He says they knew there was a need for more business in the community.
“The feedback we have been getting through Beer Mule customers and employees is they are just really happy something like this space has come to Watsonville,” he says. “A lot of people say that they are excited to stay in their community and not have to travel. People will bike there because it’s close to a lot of neighborhoods—it’s more accessible than other places.”
The Duecks signed a 35-year lease, so the spot isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. They say that opening a space like the Hangar has been a longtime dream. Watsonville celebrated 150 years as a city last year, and combined with longstanding businesses like Driscoll’s, Annieglass and Martinellis, the Hangar looks to usher in an era of new business and community involvement.
“We have gotten a lot of gratitude from the community,” Dueck says. “They thank us and thank Beer Mule for investing in Watsonville and believing that the community will support that type of business. That’s been one of the biggest surprises—the gratitude and enjoyment from people living in the area.”
Beer Mule is located in the Hangar at 45 Aviation Way, Watsonville. 254-9789.