Location, location, location…
It’s one of the most important factors to consider when building any brick-and-mortar business, and it’s also one of the biggest struggles we’ve had as aspiring entrepreneurs.
We live in Charlotte, which is a fairly new scene for the craft beer industry, but it’s establishing itself quite strongly, considering how close we are to Asheville (better known as Beer USA).
Even before we thought about opening up a brewery, our first idea was to go into business with our friends and start a brew-on-premise facility that would target wedding parties. Brides and grooms could come into the facility, learn how to brew their own beer, and even brew a batch for their bachelor/ette party(ies) and/or their big day.
It was a genius idea, but probably a bit too niche, and it wasn’t our ultimate dream. We wrestled with our friends over where this facility would be located. They lived in Huntersville and we lived in Matthews at the time. Our dream was to meet in the middle – right in the heart of downtown Charlotte where most of the beer-drinking crowd seems to congregate during nights and weekends. But we just couldn’t agree. So, in an effort to salvage our friendship, we gracefully parted ways.
Since then, we’ve been hard at work, perfecting recipes, meeting with potential investors, scoping out local artists and learning the ins and outs of owning your own brewpub. And we’ve learned that location matters.
When you’re thinking about starting your own brewery, there are a few things you have to consider when it comes to the space you’ll occupy. Here’s what we’ve garnered from years of searching for that perfect place to brew and serve…
1. Go where the people are. Seems like common sense, right? But you’d be surprised at how many arguments we had over this issue (mainly because competition becomes a concern in more densely populated areas – but I’ll get to that more in my next point.)
Though I still sometimes wonder what would have happened if we had stuck with the brew-on-premise thing, I’m honestly glad we didn’t. Huntersville is a cool place, but the exact spot we were considering was in Davidson (not to be confused with North Davidson (NoDa) where the heart of Charlotte’s craft beer scene and local arts scene is currently located.) Statistically speaking, I really don’t think we would have attracted enough people from the outskirts of Charlotte to our space in such a remote area.
2. Competition is a good thing. We had a hard time convincing our friends of this. Part of the reason they wanted to stay in North Charlotte and avoid NoDa is because there is more competition in center city. Most of the local brewpubs are in NoDa and Plaza Midwood.
But in the craft beer industry, there’s really no such thing as competition. It’s all about collaboration. Think of your competitors as potential partners who can help your business grow. We’re all in this together, people.
Plus, since our mission is to help local artists, we also want to be near the arts scene in Charlotte. Right now, that also happens to be where all the local breweries are popping up.
3. Obey zoning laws. Check into the specific laws for your city. Charlotte’s zoning laws have eased up a bit since the growth of the craft beer industry, but there are still some regulations that could prevent you from opening up shop. If you do decide on a specific location, make sure it’s up to the city’s standards for breweries.
4. Have a budget in mind and be flexible. After abandoning the brew-on-premise idea, we started talking with a few potential investors. They had a budget in mind, but in today’s economy, it was really difficult to find commercial real estate within that budget – at least not in the locations we were hoping for.
Ultimately, we decided that the right location is important enough to wait for, so we didn’t jump at every piece of property that came our way, and that’s why we’re still waiting to find a good space. But if you’re eager to get started, and your budget is limited, be willing to sacrifice when it comes to location and be ready with alternative marketing and distribution strategies if you’re not where the people are, as we mentioned in point #1.
5. A house is not a home. The building and location are important, but they aren’t at the heart of what we do. We brew beer because we love it, and we will keep doing it at home and as a hobby, even if our dream of having a commercial facility never pans out. Don’t lose site of why you do what you do in the quest to find the perfect space to do it. After all, a house is not a home. A home is where you and your loved ones are located, and if all else fails, you can still throw a big bash at your place to celebrate your accomplishments as a homebrewer.