GRAND RAPIDS — The founding couple whose initials gave ELK Brewing LLC its name are no longer with the company.
Jeff DeLongchamp, majority owner of the craft brewery that has taprooms in Grand Rapids and Comstock Park, told MiBiz that he recently finalized a deal to buy out founders Eric and Lisa Karns, the “ELK” in ELK Brewing.
DeLongchamp, who also owns Kentwood-based Election Source, a supplier of voting supplies and equipment, and the entertainment website GRNow, initially purchased a majority interest in the brewery in 2017.
“I decided to become more involved as ELK has grown to the size where it needs a professional management team to plan for the future and to oversee the day to day operations for both locations and for distribution,” DeLongchamp told MiBiz via email.
In the two years since he’s had majority ownership of the company, DeLongchamp said he “evaluated the company’s progress” and determined he needed to step into a more active role.
“As part of this evaluation process, the company and Eric Karns mutually agreed to part ways and I purchased his remaining ownership interests in the company,” DeLongchamp said.
Karns could not be reached for comment.
Through October last year, ELK Brewing had already sold 1,269 barrels of beer in Michigan, nearly 70 percent more than it sold in all of 2017, according to the most recent tax data available from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission.
DeLongchamp said the brewery, which has a capacity of about 4,500 barrels, was on track to produce about 3,000 barrels of beer this year.
With the opening of its Comstock Park location in 2016, ELK Brewing significantly expanded its capacity with a 15-barrel brewing operation and added packaging lines to move beer into distribution, including at major grocery chains.
“We are listening to what the consumers want, and will work our hardest to deliver a variety of high quality craft beers to the market,” DeLongchamp said in an email, noting that the company was planning some specialty beers “for a few large local venues” that he wasn’t yet ready to discuss publicly.
Along with the shift of ownership interest, the company plans to upgrade its branding and embark on “an aggressive push for wider distribution” of its brands. The ownership changes will not affect the company’s taproom events, beer releases or mug clubs, according to a statement, which noted the firm does plan to reintroduce wine and cider at the Comstock Park site.
While a statement issued by the company claimed DeLongchamp was now the “sole owner” of ELK Brewing, MLCC records indicate the company has “over 20” active members. When asked for clarification, DeLongchamp said he was the “single owner” of the company’s class A stock.
“The other members are class B stock holders,” he said via email.