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May 20, 2006 BUSINESS IN ASHLAND Elizabeth Bretko Scrapes glue off the floor in preparation for tiling in the old Pizza Hut building on May 19. Orville Hector / Daily Tidings Pizza Hut going herbal By Alan Panebaker

BUSINESS IN ASHLAND

Pizza Hut going herbal

“Chai guy” Chad Derosier and “chai mama” Elizabeth Bretko are scraping away years of grease, cheese and soda stains from the old Pizza Hut building on Ashland Street.

“It’s so ironic with us using this building and them tearing down the Taco Bell across the street to build a new one,” Derosier said.

The chai guy said the small company is dedicated to corporate responsibility and is proud to be using an older building instead of rebuilding a new one.

Derosier and Bretko, along with a small staff, are cleaning and replacing everything they think is necessary in the old building to get ready for an opening in a couple months. Bretko signed the lease May — to move Heartsong Herbal Brewing company into the old Pizza Hut. She started the business six years ago and started out brewing organic chai drinks at Evo’s Coffee Lounge after hours. Soon the business outgrew the original space and Bretko turned her Jacksonville garage into a brewery. Bretko said she is ecstatic to send the stainless steel kettles over to Ashland and maybe expand its distribution to more local businesses and other cities.

Currently, Heartsong distributes to 12 businesses in Ashland and others from San Francisco up to Missoula, Mont. Bretko said she hopes the new building will allow the business to grow into a production line and send its 1/2-gallon jugs of Habanero Honey Brew and Thai Dragon Tonic to more businesses throughout the region.

“We want to try to give the soda industry a run for their money,” Bretko said.

She said a few people have come by and asked if the people working at the Pizza Hut were opening a new franchise. When Bretko told them no, some people were upset, she said. The irony that hits Bretko every time she lifts a sponge to the wall at the old Pizza Hut is how she is cleaning up the thing her company is working to replace.

“Our company exists to be an alternative to soda and coffee, and here we are scraping soda stains off the walls,” Bretko said.

Staff writer Alan Panebaker can be reached at 482-3456 x 227 or apanebaker@dailytidings.com.

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