Brewery proposed to replace repair shop

An artist’s rendering of the proposed micro-brewery, Columbia Filling Station. Contributed artwork

HUDSON — One couple’s retirement will be the fulfillment of another’s dream if the city planning board approves the sale of an auto repair shop for development as a brewery.

Public comment on a proposed micro-brewery in Hudson will conclude Friday, Hudson Planning Board Chairwoman Betsy Gramkow said.

Emma O’Donnell and her husband Paul O’Donnell, of 735 Columbia St. LLC, have proposed to buy the property at 735-737 Columbia St., Hudson, which is TJ Auto Service Center, to create the Columbia Filling Station, a bar, restaurant and brewery.

The planning board will vote on the proposal 6 p.m. Oct. 27 on a Zoom video conference, Emma O’Donnell said.

The O’Donnells plan to transform the auto repair shop into a brewery and restaurant using the conjoined front buildings as a seating area and kitchen, according to the proposal.

The warehouse in the rear of the building would be the brewery and an event space. There would be eight off-street parking spaces under the proposal.

“Our plan is to purchase the property, but first we need to be approved by the planning board,” Emma O’Donnell said, adding they also have legal hurdles to address for acquiring the commercial property.

They hope to open the brewery in summer 2021, Emma O’Donnell said.

The O’Donnells are from New York City and have been weekend residents in Red Hook in Dutchess County for 16 years, she said. They have spent more time upstate since the outbreak of COVID-19.

The O’Donnells are frequent Hudson visitors and love the city’s cultural diversity, and the high density makes it a good fit for commercial pursuits, Emma O’Donnell said. They are new to the brewery business, but Paul O’Donnell has been brewing at home for a few years and is a beer aficionado, she said.

“It’s nice to actually make something,” she said.

Emma O’Donnell is an interior designer and Paul O’Donnell works in finance.

The main brick building was built in 1934 and has had additions over the years.

It opened in 1935 as a gas station, Emma O’Donnell said, adding motorists would stop in Hudson for fuel and food.

The O’Donnells plan to restore the building and have been approved by the Hudson Historical Preservation Commission, she said.

They expect to bring five to seven staff jobs to Hudson upon opening and up to 15 once the business expands. Some of the positions will be part-time, Emma O’Donnell said.

Hudson’s dense population means there is a high potential for local employees, O’Donnell said.

They hope to hire local people for the brewery staff and plan to hire local workers for the renovations.

The property has been an automotive shop, TJ Auto Service Center, since 1978, owned by Anthony and Josephine Cusumano.

The couple is in a contract with the O’Donnells, waiting to close the sale if the brewery is approved, Anthony Cusumano said.

The auto shop is still in business, Josephine Cusumano said, but if and when the sale goes through, the couple will retire.

The Cusumanos were considering retirement before they were approached by the brewery developers.

“It was in the back of our mind to retire,” Josephine Cusumano said.

She declined to comment at this time on when the O’Donnells approached the couple about the property or any details of the sale.

The O’Donnells had been thinking about creating a brewery for a few years, Emma O’Donnell said, and started looking at properties last year.

The Cusumanos, as the property owners, on July 24 gave consent for the O’Donnells to apply for approvals to turn the property into a brewery with a manufacturing facility and taproom.

“Now, after 42 years of persistence, hard work and developing longtime customer relationships — some for two or more generations — we are looking forward to retirement,” the Cusumanos wrote to the planning board in a letter posted in August. “We are very excited to be able to pass our dream along to another younger couple with a wonderful vision and great enthusiasm.”

They believe the project will provide employment opportunities through renovations and ongoing operations, increased business opportunities in the city by adding foot traffic, increased property values for neighboring properties and support tourism and growth in Hudson, the Cusamanos wrote in the letter.

Kristina Dousharm Architecture and Fdesign, KDA+FD, is working on the project.

The firm, founded in 2014, has provided a range of architectural services, planning and interior design, as well as preservation and restoration in the Hudson Valley and New York City area, according to the company’s website.

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