GOBLES, Mich. (WOOD) — The owner of a fledgling brewing company in Gobles is questioning whether to continue pursuing his dream after his building and equipment were vandalized.
Ryan Long was eager to see his work make it come to life as early as this summer in the form of DirtBag Brewing Company.
“We want a place for weddings, music on the weekends, community gardens, a farmer’s market out here,” Long said. “It was more than just a brewery. It was a way to get away from construction, change it up … start doing food, beer, wine and cider and have some place for people to come and enjoy it.”
When Long stopped by the property off State Street Thursday morning, he found extensive damage — 90 windows shattered, appliances dented and equipment totaled by sand poured into its engines and hydraulics. Long’s transport van also had all of its windows smashed.
“(The vandals) found building materials, posts to throw through the windows, rocks, whatever they could find to destroy everything here. (They) tore down the wrap,” Long said.
He estimated total damages of at least $100,000.
“It’s very disheartening and unbelievable that somebody would come in and be so malicious,” Long added. “I don’t know why somebody would be motivated to do so much destruction for no reason.”
The damage found Thursday morning marks the fourth time Long’s property was vandalized or burglarized. Long says the incidents kept happening even after installing surveillance systems, including trail cameras. He added that one trail camera was intentionally broken at one time.
“The first time when we were doing the roof and the building project itself … they stole a trailer, plywood framing materials, all the roofing materials — that was about $15,000,” Long said.
He said the vandalism disqualified him from insurance.
“It was uninsurable because of the past history and what had happened with it, so nobody would take liability for what happened in the past and insure it today,” Long explained.
He added the damage, especially the broken window glass, is so extensive that the premises have become a hazard.
“You come up here with a dog and walk, or people come up here off the Kal-Haven Trail, it’s going to be almost impossible to clean up all the glass and get it out of the sand,” Long said. “Not just outside, everything (inside) is covered in glass and debris.”
Long wants accountability for those who did this. He and his wife are not sure if they can recover what’s left of their dream.
“It’s really hard to even focus and choke it down right now,” Long said. “(We’re) just trying to figure out how to pick up the pieces and move forward, and what to do next and get the building secure again … and just figure out if it’s worth moving forward or choosing a different path and choosing something else.”
As of Friday afternoon, the Van Buren County Sheriff’s Office had identified three juvenile suspects and expected multiple charges to be filed. But deputies said no one had yet been arrested because the investigation was in its early stages. Long is offering a “large reward” for information that could lead to an arrest and conviction.
*Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly indicated how many windows had been shattered. We regret this error which has been fixed.