10/18/2006

Champale site now an eminent domain fight: The Trenton NJ Trentonian, 10/14/06

Opinion

By L.A. Parker

A co-worker who in 1985 moved to the Trenton area voiced a question heard throughout the city when she first arrived.

"What is that God-awful smell?"

"You mean to tell me that I left the fresh New York State air for this?"

While Fred Sanford enjoyed his famous "champipple," mixture of champagne and Ripple, Trentonians had their Champale, one of the first malt liquor products that targeted specifically the African American community.

Before the sexy-voiced Billy Dee Williams pitched his "The Power of Colt 45 -- It works every time" commercial advertisement, Trenton residents had Champale.

Unfortunately, production of Champale distributed a gaseous by-product that held the city hostage to a "God-awful" smell that reeked worse than a sulfur bomb.

On any given morning Trentonians living near the Lalor Street-based brewery and all compassed points beyond, were brushed back by a Champale fastball.

While this high, hard one under the chin air lurked unpleasantly invisible, the "God-awful smell" reeked to high heaven.

Longtime Lalor Street resident Joseph Lesko watched the business change hands on several occasions.

"They used to make a beer there called Trenton Old Stock and then later on the company became Champale,’’ recalled the 82-year-old Trentonian.

"A lot of smells came out of that building. Sometimes (the smells) were bitter and awful but there were times when they were nice. It all depended on what they were doing inside."

Peoples’ Brewing Company of Trenton manufactured Trenton Old Stock from 1932-1950 before Metropolis Brewing Co. of New Jersey, Inc. purchased the property.

In 1967, Champale, Inc. took over then started a national malt liquor craze that continues today.

A decade following the Champale arrival, the company announced sales receipts that topped $24 million.

Approximately 200 city workers pumped out the brew before the company eventually shut down in 1986.

That same year former Trentonian business writer Jim Fitzsimmons penned a column that then Mayor Arthur Holland sought another brewer or developer for the 2.2 acre property.

No viable business interest developed until recently when mega-builder K.Hovnanian proposed an approximate 84-condominium project that is mired in an eminent domain fight, want-to-get-rich-fast opportunists and other legitimate property owner complaints.

City Council members could vote on the project by Thursday, despite the objections of a few property owners who believe that K.Hovnanian could build around their properties.

If no resolution is reached between developer, city officials and property owners then likely the project is dead.

Such a scenario would leave South Ward revitalization hopes in a funk.

By the way, Champale is manufactured today by Pabst and distributed in New Jersey by LA Piccirillo Inc. in Newark.


The Trenton NJ Trentonian: http://www.zwire.com