Building a Bigger Brewery: Weeks 28-47

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Artists rendering of the brewery floor.  Taproom and restaurant will overlook the brewery.

Weeks 28 to 47!?!

“But Ron, what have you been doing for five months?  We have had no updates…anything?”

Well, right around the last update, I was getting my project numbers together to apply for a rather sizeable loan for the new production facility at Canal Place.  That finally DID get submitted to one bank.  It DID get rejected.  Even though we are two years old, we are still considered a ‘startup’.  The expansion number was too expensive, too soon.  And the fact that the company would never own the building that the bank would be financing the buildout for, ended up being a negative.

And then, right around the time of the financing rejection, we took over a kitchen.  Now let’s just say this, running a brewery and taproom is one thing.  Running a kitchen is a completely different animal.  It makes it seem like running a brewery is akin to running a lemonade stand.  So the last several months I’ve been pretty much stuck in the kitchen getting it to run smoothly and not operating at a loss.  Running numbers, scheduling, payroll, figuring out vendors and food ordering, setting up and tracking food waste and  building a chain-of-command among the kitchen personal.  Once that was done I began transferring full responsibility of these items to the kitchen staff which is ongoing.  The fact that I am writing this means that it has largely been successful, and if anything, it’s good to know your kitchen’s in-and-out as it’s great practice for our production facility’s resturant.

We also just had our 2nd Anniversary!  It was epic.  Thank you all!  A lot of beer was consumed…which then highlighted our next problem.  Supply and demand.  It’s been hard keeping up with supply…even a month after our Anniversary.  This week we are out of all IPA’s (you know, that category that has the most marketshare and is delicious).  We are now brewing as much as we can – 4 or 5 times per week to fill every fermentor that we have.  We have had to re-brew our fall lineup as even though we released them later than most.  If we didn’t, we would have been out of them before Halloween, which is unacceptable.

With this increased output, we have had to walk a tightrope with our glycol chiller (the machine that keeps everything at the right temperature).  It is now severely undersized and is slowing things down.  We probably will have to get a bigger one very soon to keep up with this increased pace (and the upcoming Holidays).  It’s money that I would have rather gone to Canal Place, but we gotta do what we gotta do.

CANAL PLACE, WE NEED YOU.

There it is, I said it.  Canal Place, other than being a destination production brewery and restaurant within an Akron Brewery District, will allow The Valley location some breathing room.  Many of our ‘staple beers’ will now be made at Canal Place and transferred over to The Valley when we need it.  We will not have to spend a closed day to clean kegs as it will be done at Canal Place.  We will then plan to brew a little less at The Valley location, two to three times per week instead of four to five, but they will be mostly experimental brews that will only be released at The Valley.  We will be able to put a little more time and finesse into what we brew.

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“So Ron, are you any closer towards a deal on Canal Place?”

In between all of the stuff above, I’ve been taking several day trips to Canal Place.  I’ve been measuring and figuring.  Being that what I initially asked for financing was too much, I have been getting this number down without sacrificing the vision.  My initial numbers I asked from the bank was based off of several general contractors quotes on a rather ‘broad’ project scope.  What this means is that I got my project cost based on general sq.ft. costs to do electric, plumbing, HVAC, etc…NOT based on how much electric, plumbing and HVAC that I actually need and where.  So I have been spending a lot of time mapping existing conditions, getting my exact equipment requirements (brewery/kitchen) and really figuring out, ‘is this necessary’?

BAMM!  Doing this has brought the project cost down from over $2.3 million to just under $1.5 million…a rather sizeable amount of savings.  I’m actually glad I got rejected the first time.  It allowed me to do the real work, to get real costs, to then not overpay on this.  It has also got me thinking about the setup of the entire thing, the workflow of materials and people.  EVERYTHING is now on paper.  No surprises.  All I need is the financing to then execute it.  I believe I am now within the sweet spot to get this loan.

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I have also began to run parts of this project past the relevant departments in Akron that will be affected by it.  I have run my preliminary plans past one of the engineers of the Akron Wastewater Treatment plan (brewery effluent) and also the proposed kitchen (F.O.G. – fats, oils and greases program) – I have a plan and a cost for those.  I have ran the kitchen past the Akron Fire Dept and have gotten some preliminary approval.  I have submitted electric, plumbing and HVAC for a quote and I am finalizing equipment costs.  Everything is now accounted for in real costs.

I have also become a member of the Akron Chamber of Commerce.  What a great organization!  Where else can you get integrated with people who’s sole mission is to make Akron better (thanks Brad)?  I have been in talks with the Akron Chamber’s Economic Development team regarding the production facility expansion and they are providing a lot of help to see this through.  The same with the City of Akron, Summit County and the Downtown Akron Partnership.

What’s left now is that all of these organizations just need some final numbers.  I plan to have them done in a few weeks while also planning to resubmit to a a few banks as now I have two full years of numbers for our Valley location.

It will happen.  It’s just that a 60,000 sq.ft. project is a lot to get your hands around and it takes time to understand.  And people have been patient and understanding.

* I do provide more frequent updates on the progress of this expansion (almost weekly), if you want to be a part of this, join the Facebook group RShea Brewing Universe to get the nitty-gritty, daily in’s and out’s.

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