KENTWOOD — Brewery Vivant is planning to open a satellite facility that will help ease space constraints and give the company a broader reach into the greater Grand Rapids area, MiBiz has learned.
Owners Jason and Kris Spaulding are still figuring out some of the details for the new taproom, brewery and warehouse facility, including a separate brand for the project, which they’ve currently codenamed Concept 2 by Vivant. The more than 25,000-square-foot facility they purchased at 2885 Lake Eastbrook Boulevard in Kentwood, formerly home to a Klingman’s Furniture Outlet store, is located about 6.5 miles from the company’s flagship East Hills location.
Brewery Vivant has been looking for additional warehousing space for about three years as it quickly outgrew the storage capacity at its Cherry Street brewery and taproom. Initially, that search was focused only on facilities in Grand Rapids, but a lack of inventory forced the company to look to other nearby areas, according to Jason Spaulding.
“We were determined to stay in Grand Rapids, but had to look outside,” he said, noting the company passed on the Kentwood facility a year and a half ago. When it came back on the market earlier this year, “we realized the facility was perfect.”
The company initially sought a facility just to consolidate its leased off-site storage into a building it owned and controlled. The move was needed to bring “under one roof” all of Brewery Vivant’s can storage, barrel aging and distribution fulfillment operations, the latter of which had become a key pinch point given that the tight parking lot at the Cherry Street location posed a challenge for getting semi-trailers in for shipping and receiving.
The Spauldings originally weren’t planning a second taproom, but with the Kentwood facility’s location at the northwest corner of Lake Eastbrook Boulevard and 29th Street, they saw an opportunity to reach an underserved area.
“What we like about the area is there’s not many locally-owned places out there. We’re excited to be the local place,” Jason Spaulding said. “We’re following our own advice whenever anyone asks us about opening a brewery: We’re going where other people aren’t.”
Brewery Vivant has not determined a target opening date in Kentwood, but the company has an immediate need for the storage space, he said.
Lott3Metz Architecture LLC of Grand Rapids designed the new taproom concept. Grand Rapids-based Rockford Construction Co. Inc. is serving as the construction manager on the project. The city approved a request for a special land use at a meeting last week.
With the new taproom, Brewery Vivant’s new concept could become the first craft brewery to open in the city of Kentwood, according to city documents. A startup operation, High Five Co-op Brewery Inc., also has leased a storefront location at 3846 52nd Street SE in Kentwood for a taproom and production facility, but an opening date is not yet known.
To start, Brewery Vivant plans to build-out a 13,400-square-foot production and packaging area, as well as a 3,600-square-foot, 99-seat taproom and retail space, which would be open seven days per week. The company also expects to move its pilot brewing system to the new location.
An existing clothing retailer, Action Supply Safety & Workwear Store, will continue operating from its 7,300-square-foot space in the building.
For the Spauldings, the plan in Kentwood is to create a totally different concept and sub-brand to focus on trending styles and other beers that don’t fit with the rustic farmhouse theme at Brewery Vivant. The company would only offer those styles for sale at the Kentwood brewery, not place them into distribution.
As well, the new “laid-back” concept will be first and foremost a brewery taproom, de-emphasizing the food component to put beer front and center, according to Kris Spaulding.
Kentwood law requires food service at establishments that serve alcohol, so the location initially will allow patrons to bring their own food or order in from area restaurants. She said the company is exploring the idea of offering the facility as an incubator space for food entrepreneurs to test out their concepts, perhaps via indoor food carts.
The Spauldings say having the additional taproom will help with spreading brand awareness for Brewery Vivant, allow the company to better work with its wholesale partners, and refocus distribution on the local market. The company last year opted to pull out of the competitive Chicago market and recently has shifted some excess capacity in the Boston market, which it will re-evaluate when the Kentwood taproom opens.
“Our goal is to sell beer in a small footprint,” Jason Spaulding said. “With this second taproom, we will take the capacity that we had been selling out of state and be able to sell it in-state. It’s more profitable, and we have more control over the product.”
According to data from the Brewers Association, Brewery Vivant produced 5,104 barrels of beer in 2017, up 9 percent from the previous year. Michigan Liquor Control Commission reports indicate the Grand Rapids craft brewery sold 4,747.5 barrels of beer in the state last year.
Unlike most other brewery expansions in recent years that have been focused on growing production capacity and expanding distribution into new markets, Brewery Vivant wants to be able to go deeper and better serve its home market, according to Kris Spaulding.
“This facility is not to increase the size of our business, but to alter the channels where we sell beer,” she said.