NJ Couple Turned a Vacant Bank Into a Brewery

Deemed one of the state's most endangered buildings in 2018, the Woodstown structure is now home to Farmers & Bankers Brewing—and a future event space.

The exterior of Farmers & Bankers Brewing in Woodstown
The former National Bank building in Woodstown, built in 1892, is now home to Farmers & Bankers Brewing and a future event space. Photo courtesy of Farmers & Bankers Brewing

The brownstone-and-brick First National Bank building has dominated the main downtown intersection of the little Salem County borough of Woodstown since it was erected in 1892. 

Unlike New Jersey’s many neoclassical banks, the Victorian-inspired First National was built in the ornate Romanesque Revival style, with an open-arched tower rising 70 feet above the entrance. A slate-clad pyramidal roof capped by a weathervane tops the tower. Arched windows flank the entryway, and round pillars rise to the tower above. The building’s original cost: $17,000.

The bank was modernized in the 1940s and restored in 1987, when it was taken over by the First National Bank of Toms River. It functioned as a Sun National Bank branch and then a law office before going vacant. By 2018, the bank made an appearance on Preservation New Jersey’s annual most endangered buildings list.

The building sat vacant for more than a decade until August 2021, when Mike and Rebecca Melniczuk, of nearby Pilesgrove, swooped in. Mike, an engineer by trade and a self-described history buff, had long dreamed of opening a craft brewery. The couple purchased the old bank building and, armed with a Small Business Association loan, began what remains an ongoing renovation project. Developers are undertaking similar projects throughout the Garden State.

The interior of Farmers & Bankers Brewing in Woodstown

The Melniczuks transformed the bank’s more recently renovated area into a modern tap house. Photo courtesy of Farmers & Bankers Brewing

When the Melniczuks took over the building, the roof was leaking and “trees were growing out of the tower,” says Mike. The couple concentrated first on renovating the newer, less architecturally significant rear part of the bank, which had been added in the 1970s. Taking it down to the studs, they remodeled the interior (once a grocery store) as a small, modern tap house.

In June 2022, the Melniczuks opened the doors on Farmers & Bankers Brewing. The 2,500-square-foot space has seating for 125 and a beer garden outside. And what of the bank’s original space? The 1987 restoration had revealed parts of the original pressed metal ceiling, the old mosaic-tile entry vestibule, a fireplace (hidden behind a plaster wall), and the elaborately painted vault door.

The Melniczuks have applied for a grant to help them renovate the old section of the bank, which they plan to use as an event space.

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