Milford’s Station 101 craft beer bar now open
MILFORD – Although COVID knocked everybody for a loop, Station 101, 193 Union Square, has opened in a restored 1950s filling station with a selection of craft beers from New Hampshire breweries.
The bar décor dates back to yesteryear, with authentic gas pumps, signs and subtle nuances.
And while COVID measures are in place inside to ensure safety and social distancing guidelines, owners Chip Pollard and Gage Perry said with the warm weather coming, limited space won’t be an issue, as there are two large garage doors which open onto the patio and the Great Brook River.
“They’ve given us 100 seated and 214 standing,” Pollard set. “When the time is right, if we want to throw a big party, we can.”
A surge in the coronavirus over the holidays put a temporary damper on opening Station 101. But Pollard and Perry have been patient.
“Initially, we wanted to open over the Christmas break, right around Thanksgiving, because everyone would be home from college,” Perry said.
In the planning stages, the concept to restore and repurpose an old Station 101 began three years ago, when Pollard said he first visited the spot, which was overrun with tow trucks.
“You couldn’t’ really see the building,” he said. “When I was down south, and you’d see these old gas stations restored, and there is a National Park Service circular that’s out, which that talks about restoring all these historic properties, in very historic locations.”
With the help of the Milford Historical Society, Pollard and Perry were able to find vintage photographs from newspaper clippings of the oval and the surrounding area from the ’50s and even prior to that.
“They’re really trying to revitalize Route 66,” Perry said.
Pollard said that the site where Station 101 is now was one of the first commercial sites developed in Milford. He estimated that the mill that was built there was erected in 1785, give or take a year, and was torn down in 1944.
The last business to occupy 193 Union Square was a towing company and repair shop.
“They would bring in these junk cars and cut out the catalytic converters,” Pollard said. “And try to make money on them and then get $200 a junk car. But you couldn’t see the place. It was just covered. Then they cleared the place out and we came out from breakfast one day and spotted the ‘For Sale’ sign.”
Pollard and Perry were looking for “an adventure,” and came close to buying an apple orchard and a hop farm.
Lure and common sense suggest that acquiring any property on the Oval is like sitting on a goldmine. Pollard and Perry agreed.
“People just hold onto these places,” Pollard said. “So, to get a chunk of the Oval was incredible. And we knew we wanted to put something fun here. That’s what it’s about. Milford is such a cool town that adding more fun places to visit is going to bring people to all the businesses here.”
Pollard and Perry enlisted the advice of Carl Soderberg of Able Ebenezer Brewing Company, and he confirmed what they had in mind.
“You come into the Oval on a Friday night and these places are busy,” Perry said. “People can find parking in or just off the Oval, and then you have all this foot traffic. It’s constant. But Station 101 is perfect. You can come in and have a beer and if you’re waiting to go into one of the restaurants, you can relax right here.”
In retrospect, Pollard and Perry are relieved that they didn’t open during the height of the pandemic.
“Thank goodness we didn’t open then,” Pollard said. “We would have lost so much money, it would have hurt us.”
Although they had monthly bills to pay, they say they’re in it for the long haul.
“It’s about this property,” Pollard reiterated. “This building was falling apart and it’s completely restored now. The entire inside is brand new. The flooring, the electrical, the plumbing, heating system, bathrooms and the coolers.”
With exposed beams and ceiling fans enhancing the décor, Pollard and Perry are ready for people to stop by for a cold one.
“People love Americana,” Pollard said. “And that National Park circular said usually the gas stations had the best spot in town. I think the thing that definitely pushed us was when we stepped outside and realized that we were right on a river. No one knew that patio was there. It was covered in junk.”
The Great Brook River is not only a visual highlight, it’s also great at drowning out the noise of the traffic.
Station 101 touts a wide selection of craft beers, hand-picked by Pollard and Perry, with beers and brewers that represent the best of what New Hampshire has to offer.
“There are a lot of independent brewers and we want to help them,” Pollard said. “So instead of driving all over the state, people can come in here and have their best independent beer.
Station 101 is also utilizing Bellavance Beverage, Amoskeag and Vacationland, with the bar’s emphasis on craft beers, which will rotate.
“We’re going to be very customer driven,” Pollard said. “If they come in and they want certain types of beers, we’ll listen and learn and we’ll go with the flow.”
“We’re looking forward to having folks come in,” Perry said. “We want to support these independents and their brewing process.”
As for restoring and reclaiming the site where Station 101 is located, Pollard and Perry said the town of Milford was indispensable in helping them along the way.
“We were restoring an old building and bringing it back to its original form,” Pollard shared. “That’s what you see on the outside. We wanted to keep the look.”
Perry said the planning board was essential in making Station 101 happen.
“With the planning board and the inspectors, we told them what we wanted to do,” Perry said.
“They jumped through hoops to help us,” Pollard added. “They didn’t want an old dirty garage. They wanted a place that improves Milford. That’s what we were shooting for and I think we did it.”