Restored Art Deco jewel downtown now bubbles with entrepreneurs
“For roughly five years now, people have looked at us as if we’re crazy,” said Ed Musselman. “Now it’s a no-brainer.”
The crazy no-brainer scenario is the restoration of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in downtown Paducah that’s now a vibrant hub for showcasing artists and musicians and bringing in locals and tourists for coffee, beer and food. The building sat vacant since 2005 before Ed and Meagan Musselman of Musselman Properties purchased the property in 2013.
The 16,000-s.f. building needed plenty of TLC. The Musselmans got the roof taken care of and windows secured. They also set about to get the property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In May of this year they were presented with a preservation project award from the Kentucky Heritage Council for redeveloping the plant and preserving many of its original Art Deco features. The building dates to 1939, when it was built by Coca-Cola bottler Luther Carson.
“What we wanted to do with the structure was find a way to bring in as many things that make Paducah Paducah,” Musselman said of the plant’s 21st-century iteration. He also wanted to include something the city didn’t have yet: a craft brewery.
In February 2015, Dry Ground Brewing became the Coke Plant’s first occupant. In addition to owning the building and the Dry Ground microbrewery and taproom, the Musselmans are majority owners of Mellow Mushroom, a pizza franchise based in Atlanta – and yes, they serve Coke products.
The other businesses are tenants, including Pipers Tea & Coffee; Ice Cream Factory; True North Yoga; an art gallery and gift shop called Ochre; and the Baptist Health Founders Room, a rentable community space. There also are areas for digital marketers, video production and musicians. A technology/maker incubator is in the works.
“We are trying to foster entrepreneurial growth,” Musselman said. “We have a list so long of the next projects.”
He has a degree in biology and worked for a chemical plant a few years before getting into the development business. Meagan Musselman has a master’s in education and a Ph.D. in curriculum construction. She has been teaching for 15 years, nine as an assistant professor at Murray State.
“It’s a great place to be a young professional,” Meagan Musselman said of Paducah. “There are lots of young professionals in the area, lots of people to collaborate and work with.”
She and her husband are both managing members of Musselman Properties.