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PANAMA CITY’S RENAISSANCE – PERSPECTIVES – Allan Branch

ALLAN Branch is an entrepreneur who “builds software companies and now breweries.” He also invests in real estate in Downtown Panama City. He helps change the streetscape and grow new businesses.
“It started four years ago when my wife, Anna, and I bought a warehouse in Downtown Panama City and transformed it into a modern loft-style home,” he explains. The remodeling project can be viewed on Lowe’s
Home Improvement’s YouTube channel. This was just the beginning.

“My wife, Anna, and I are passionate about Downtown Panama City. Each building I invested in and renovated has had its own set of challenges. But the outcome is worth it.

“Most of the buildings I own had brick walls under a stucco façade. One of the recurring tasks in renovating the buildings was that we had to chisel off the stucco and then restore the brick. I think stucco was very popular in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s here in Panama City. Especially patterned stucco.

“Removing stucco from brick is work- intense and expensive. I also noticed that the bricks that were used in the later 1930s are often not solid. With hollow cores, the brick is lighter but this makes it harder to restore. When you work with a chisel to remove a layer of stucco from hollow brick, you could punch through. We’ve tried soda-blasting and sandblasting, chisels, grinders, everything. Each project required different sets of tools and a different amount of work, depending on how old the stucco is and the brick underneath.

“What I like particularly about the look of a brick building is that it’s not perfect. There is a term called wabi-sabi. It recognizes that beauty lies in imperfection.

“Brick gives you a warm, fuzzy feeling because it’s not perfect. Just like people. We are not perfect. You feel drawn to it.

“Since moving downtown, I partnered with Tim Whaler to launch History Class Brewing Company. With another set of partners, Chris Cramer and Kevin Wattenbarger, we have restored and reopened a historic home, the Sapp House, which is now open for business and can be booked for events.”

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