A new use for an old building
It's not very often that the building comes before the business plan, but that's exactly what happened to Bryan Iverson and Scott Ramsay when they purchased a boarded up, foreclosed building on Northwest Fourth Street in the spring of 2016.
"We purchased this building originally for storage. We weren't sure we could even save it. It was in terrible condition," Ramsay said of the 2,500-square-foot building nestled between Prineville Electric and the Vet's Club.
They started with a vision of stripping the building down and seeing what bones they had to work with.
"Once we got this thing stripped out, we said, 'Wow, this is kinda cool,'" Ramsay said of the 1920s-era building.
Today, they rent out Foundry Four Distillery as a venue for private parties and hope to open a tasting room in June and serve their own brand of Prineville spirits.
"We've been friends and business associates for a long time and decided this was the next crazy thing we could do together," Ramsay laughed.
As the name suggests, Foundry Four Distillery was born to pay homage to the renovated industrial past of the building they saved and the men and women who worked within its walls. Over the years, the building had many uses, including a foundry, an automotive garage, a butcher shop and meat locker, a newspaper, a dry cleaners, and a clinic.
Many years ago, a guy bought it with plans to turn it into a sporting goods store. He ended up just storing merchandise but never opening for business. When the owner passed away, his children inherited it, removed the sporting goods items, and stopped paying taxes. The county owned it for several years.
Iverson, of Prineville, and Ramsay, who lives in Bend, did much of the renovation work themselves, with a little help from friends.
"As we got into that process and got to the point where we were putting the space together, we were thinking, 'Wow, this is really a nice space, a really cool space. So what use can we do with this building?'" Ramsay recalls.
That led them to discuss starting another hobby business.
"We are both aficionados of whiskey, we like it, we like the idea of that small craft spirit," Ramsay said. "Most companies do it the opposite — they're spirit producers first and then they go around and they look for a cool space to have it."
They decided to open a tasting room and eventually produce their own Prineville brand of spirits.
"Once we open 100 percent, then we'll be open every Friday and Saturday, is the goal," Iverson said.
The building is now divided into three areas: a tasting room with a bar and several tables made from Deschutes Brewery barrels; a smaller room for the event manager that also serves as a flex space; and a storage area.
The tasting room opens to a fenced back patio that will eventually have tables and a fire pit. They plan to turn an old flatbed Chevy into a performance stage and build a pergola.
"Once we get the back finished, during nice weather, we'll incorporate all of this together. It's going to be a really nice space for people to use for their events," Ramsay said.
But until the permitting processes are complete, Foundry Four Distillery is available for private parties to rent.
They had a soft opening last August when they served drinks during the Prineville Vintage Market. They have also hosted a Halloween party, some Christmas parties, Sen. Greg Walden's recent visit, and a wedding reception.
Sheena York, who for a year has operated Firefly Events in one room if the building, is the booking manager for Foundry Four as well as Room 1868, which Iverson also owns.
Iverson said Foundry Four offers a different ambiance than Room 1868 across the street.
"We figured we could leverage that success and bring the overflow of what doesn't work over there to over here and have a different audience," he said.
They knew there was a need for more private event venues in town.
"There was a need in Prineville for a different kind of cool space," Ramsay said.