The four storefronts the microbrewery and diner call home didn’t always look like this. An aluminum façade hid these historic structures for decades as the elements took a devastating toll inside and out on the forgotten buildings. Acquired in 2000, these buildings became the first properties deeded for development as part of the Chestnut Street District’s downtown revitalization effort.
Along with stabilizing the collapsed ceiling in what is now the brewery, other challenges included replacing chiseled and damaged brick with limestone, unifying the storefronts with a steel I-beam and conforming the different floor levels of the four buildings to ADA standards. Whenever possible, designers incorporated original elements of the buildings into the design.
The open kitchen buzzes with culinary activity, savory aromas and fiery spectacle. Acting in stark contrast is the cool calm of the steel brew tanks, tangle of hoses and the sweet scent of barley and hops. The industrial beauty of rusted steel, the cool glare of galvanized aluminum and the raw quality of weathered wood are all perfectly offset by the intimate chatter of patrons over plates of delicious food and pints of handcrafted beer.
Historically inspired paintings created by graduates of Fort Hays State University’s Art Department add color and culture directly to the authentic brick walls. The paintings are indicative of the signage that once appeared on the sides of downtown structures serving notice of the name of the company or type of services offered within. Patrons entering by the west door of Gella’s Diner & Lb. Brewing Co. are greeted by the artwork entitled “Three Star Harvest”. Taken from a 1930s photograph, “Three Star Harvest” is the silhouette of three Ellis County farmers eating lunch in a field. Diners in the second room from the west are treated to a rustic sign once prominent on Eleventh Street in the 1920s. FHSU graduate, Amber Hampton, interpreted historic photos to design both murals. The actual act of painting was a collaboration between Hampton and nationally renowned artist Kris Kuksi of Hays. Kuksi, a graduate turned instructor for FHSU’s Art Department, enlisted students from FHSU’s Basic Design Class to paint.
From hand painted murals to industrial agricultural lighting, open spaces and references to early railroad cars, the brewery and diner convey an industrial farm look for a fresh yet traditional atmosphere that is Hays’ alone.
Look above the bar and you’ll see that the brewery’s designer took egg baskets and turned them upside down to create an ambience unlike any other. The black granite for the brewery’s bar came from Sylvan Grove, located just east of Hays. The Company M&G Designs provided this granite for Gella’s Diner & Lb. Brewing Co. as well as granite for the elevators of Chicago’s Sears Tower. A glass wall separates the bar from Lb. Brewing Co.’s stainless steel tanks or “barrels” which produce 310 gallons of beer each run. Lb. Brewing Co. is capable of producing 1,000 barrels of beer a year. How many bottles of beer on the wall would that be?
A private banquet facility just off the bar can entertain up to 50 guests, and it’s fully equipped to host a variety of functions. Free wireless Internet access is available throughout the diner and brewery provided courtesy of Nex-Tech.
Centrally located downtown, the city’s cultural centers, recreation parks, galleries, specialty shops and more are all within walking distance.