With the 16-year-old Arcadia Brewing Co. running out of capacity and room at its longstanding downtown Battle Creek location, founder Timothy C. Suprise went looking for a new location. He shopped around all of West Michigan before settling on a key location in downtown Kalamazoo. The company and partners Enmar LLC, a real estate firm, secured $1 million in grants from the Michigan Strategic Fund to support the $5.5 million project, which could create 42 jobs. Suprise, a native New Yorker who started Arcadia after walking away from a career in the paper industry, spoke with MiBiz to discuss the strategy behind the move.
Why did you need a new location?
First and foremost we ran out of space in our Battle Creek location. It has been a space challenge for the better part of two years there and it became clear to us that we needed to go through a process of due diligence to find a new space.
Where did you consider putting your new operations?
We engaged the economic development team in Battle Creek, Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids to see what options would be available to us. The package (Kalamazoo) was able to put together made the most sense — combined with the fact there was unique opportunity to engage a riverfront location.
What about the River's Edge site appealed to you?
The city's economic development team had been very patient in selecting a business that was going to be the right fit and the right project for that particular location. The building has been vacant for the last 15 to 20 years and the city has passed on a number of projects. I think when our opportunity came along it made perfect sense to the city of Kalamazoo and they bundled together a package of support, which put them in a different perspective of support between the other two communities.
Do you worry about being in the shadow of Bell's Brewery?
No, we don't worry about those kinds of things. We have tremendous beer culture here in West Michigan with the evidence of the handful of other recent openings and expansions. People are connected within each of our communities that have brewpubs and microbreweries. I think our project adds dimension to the area.
What will this mean for the future of Arcadia in Battle Creek?
We've recommitted to our customers and our place in that community. Sixteen years ago, we put down roots and earned a spot in the downtown. We've worked to develop a real loyal customer base and we plan to continue to add value and support the downtown Battle Creek by continuing our operation there.
You made some changes to your business model a couple of years ago. Describe what you did.
About two years ago, we needed to strategically pull back out of some markets on the East Coast to keep up with demand mainly in Michigan and Illinois. We pulled out of Washington, D.C., Maryland, New York, Massachusetts and Western Pennsylvania. We just couldn't make enough beer to keep up with the space and capacity limitations we were working under.
Was the capacity constraint the biggest factor in this expansion?
At the time, that was the biggest stimulus for us to expand, but I think for us the opportunity that presented itself with that unique riverfront location seemed to make a lot of sense to us from a market and capacity standpoint too. A lot of people that live in Kalamazoo work in Battle Creek and vice versa. Hopefully our presence in both communities will serve to integrate them both a little closer and help our ability to grow our own company.
What makes West Michigan a good beer region?
We just have a really healthy beer culture. Bell's, Founders, Short's and Dark Horse have all gone through multi-million-dollar expansions, and I think the rising tide can lift all boats.
You now chair the Southwest Michigan First Business Expansion team. Why did you get involved there?
I believe that there is shared responsibility for community and business leaders to come together — if they can — to push growth and communication in our cities. I've been very impressed with the stewardship and leadership the region is getting from Southwest Michigan First. They are motivated to take necessary steps to ensure growth and development.