Destination Yorklyn

Brews, bikes and steam cars have this quaint village moving full speed ahead

By Jill Althouse-Wood

Looking for something to do to fill a few of the weekend’s leisure hours? Consider a quick car ride to Yorklyn,

What was once a once sleepy, suburban community in Delaware, a short walk away from the curved Pennsylvania border, has become a post-COVID destination. The seeds of this renewal started a few years before the pandemic around the time John Hoffman, a Yorklyn native, saw potential in a dilapidated building on the Garrett Snuff Mill complex and set about renovating the site for his family’s microbrewery venture.

“When we started looking at the area for a potential location for the brewery about eight years ago, the vibe [in Yorklyn] was very low-key,” Hoffman admits. “Prior to a flood in the early 2000s, there was quite a lot of industrial and commercial activity. We knew the complex had potential from the site’s long history. And with the Center for the Creative Arts and the Marshall Steam Museum there, there was already a strong foundation for a vibrant community.”

Rob Garrison, owner of Garrison’s Cyclery located on Creek Road in Yorklyn, displays a $4,500 Cervelo Ultegra Classic road bike. Photograph by Butch Comegys

The building itself was a big part of the attraction. “It just screamed brewery.” Having selected the site, the Hoffman family began the hard work of transforming their vision into reality.

Dew Point Brewery and Tasting Room opened its doors in August of 2016. And the Yorklyn establishment quickly welcomed its newest neighbor.

“The neighborhood could have balked at the idea of a brewery moving next door, but it has turned out to be a wonderful experience,” says Susan Randolph, executive director for the neighboring Marshall Steam Museum at Auburn Heights. “They have created a spot that attracts families, which in turn is good for us. Good for the whole community.”

The Marshall Steam Museum, one of Yorklyn’s aforementioned established attractions, features the world’s largest operating collection of Stanley steam cars.  On the first Sunday of the month from June to November, the Museum hosts Steamin’ Days, which give visitors a chance to climb into an antique automobile or board one of their one-eighth-size trains and tour the surrounding property while experiencing travel as it existed at the turn of the 20th century.

Though the museum is established, it is situated on Auburn Valley State Park, which happens to be Delaware’s newest State Park, inaugurated in 2018, two years after Dew Point opened its doors. The park’s new paved bike and walking trails (with more coming) are further evidence of Yorklyn’s awakening, giving people a reason to park their cars, slow their pace, and take a thoughtful inventory of the area’s natural beauty and commercial offerings.

Such an inventory draws attention to other pre-existing and creative gems in Yorklyn’s portfolio. For almost four decades, The Center for Creative Arts has been providing arts enrichment to area residents in the form of classes, showcases, and summer camps. More recently, they have added a new market on the first Saturday of every month.

Dew Point Brewing Company owner John Hoffman with his son and employee Cody at their establshment on Creek Road in Yorklyn. Photograph by Butch Comegys

One part farmer’s market and one part craft show, the aim of the market is to bring community together to support local artists and food growers, with occasional musical performers and/or food trucks on hand to augment the experience.

Another Yorklyn cornerstone is House Industries, a graphic design firm started in the early ‘90s. House Industries has received national attention for their inventive typefaces. Enter into evidence the giant house number (in a stencil-style font originally designed for a clock face) emblazoned two-stories-tall on the side of building the firm shares with the Yorklyn Post Office. And while House isn’t necessarily a destination, it is thrilling to see testimonials on the firm’s website from celebrities such as Jimmy Kimmel and J.J. Abrams and to consider the ripple that Yorklyn  is sending out to the wider world.

Quietly, over the COVID-19 winter, another business entered the Yorklyn landscape. Garrison’s Cyclery, consistently listed as one of the best bike shops in Delaware, had a loyal following and substantial business presence in Centreville. Garrison’s was looking to expand the shop while simultaneously lowering their overhead, but they also wanted a place where cyclists could test the product before purchase and after repairs/adjustments.

Yorklyn ticked all the boxes and then some. After taking time to renovate another building in the Snuff Mill complex, Garrison’s Cyclery opened across the parking lot from Dew Point in December 2020.

Owner Rob Garrison was aware of the draw of craft beer for cyclists, many of whom planned group rides to end at breweries. Though Garrison’s doesn’t facilitate group rides (it’s an insurance thing), the new parking lot, which can accommodate 50-80 cars (up from 25-30 car lot at their old location) is regularly packed with bike-rack-laden vehicles doing just that, with Dew Point Brewing serving as the post-ride destination.

Recognizing this appeal, Garrison is working with Bellefonte Creative to create a free beer voucher for valued customers who are waiting for bike repairs. Asked if he sees a difference in his customer base after the move, Garrison makes this observation: “We are gaining customers from the Kennett Square and Newark areas. In Centerville, our customer base was North Wilmington and Greenville. We are just down the road from the old location, so it was surprising that we are picking up customers from a larger area.”

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