More To The Story

Thursday, April 18th, 2019

These stores have closed:

  • West Hartford, CT
  • Portsmouth, NH
  • Bozeman, MT
  • Port Washington, NY
  • Fort Collins, CO
  • Framingham, MA
  • Gardiner, ME
  • Columbia, MO
  • Roslindale, MA 

These stores are said to be closing:

  • Fort Point (Boston), MA
  • Swampscott, MA
  • Winchester, MA

These stores are no longer a Craft Beer Cellar:

  • Sudbury, MA
  • Portland, ME
  • Brandon, FL

Let us address Framingham, Sudbury, Portland and Brandon, first.  Framingham and Sudbury were both involved in a territory dispute. We made a mistake. We brought in a partner to help us in the fold of a rapidly growing business. There were a lot of moving parts, things were happening at the speed of light and a small detail was left unchecked. Our partner decided to return to education, pretty soon after that - we can't say that we blamed her. We've stayed the course, attended to the matter and continued to run our business. The legal case is closed and has been for nearly a year and a half. The documents are public record. We don't agree with the way things shook out, but this is life, sometimes. 

We'll leave Portland and Brandon for now, though what we can guess is that both of these stores will likely not weather the storm of the current beer industry. Both stores were declining in the efforts needed to be successful; both were pushing back against simple things that are at the core of what it means to be a Craft Beer Cellar, for example, immersing yourself in the community in which you are doing business, having the best selection in your city, and having the most educated staff (including ownership). Both stores favored the tap room model, despite our constant efforts to reiterate the unbalanced bias of a dual concept store that tipped in this direction.  

We came from this side of the industry and know that if you aren't making the beer, it takes an extra special effort to support beer being poured into glasses at a bar. Dollar for dollar, the bottle shop portion of our stores is an extremely important aspect and one that gets taken for granted with owner-operators, that often times have their eyes set on a tap room. They can work in unison with one another, but have to be done very carefully with the right balance between the two. And part of that equation is more of the above: a deeply curated tap list, education, marketing, community outreach, insane passion, tenacity, and a willingness to continue to push, every day, against other independents, grocery stores, big retailers and now, brewery tap rooms. This kind of stamina and energy are characteristics of only a small group of people, in our experience.

The remainder of the stores, some with wonderful owner-operators, closed for a variety of reasons, but all, as has been previously stated, touch on a lack of following the Craft Beer Cellar model and the philosophies upon which our company was built: amazing beer, hospitality and education! Argue it, all you like, but it's an indisputable model that has been proven. Each one of these owner-operators was in possession of the keys to their own success, but chose not to follow the prescription, even after pestering reminders, day after day, to focus on email or other marketing efforts, engage with their communities, get their education, study their beer, work harder on their shelf sets and merchandising, be incredibly thoughtful and extremely selective about the beers they chose to hand sell and solicit.

Too often we have seen and still see, to a smaller degree, only the day-to-day social posts of what's new in stores, in example, for marketing efforts. Sure, anyone can make a phone ring or a door push open with the right social media launch, laced with sought after product. But that only goes so far. As we look around at the stores standing strong, we see a difference in these owner-operators. We see their ability to understand what getting out there and getting to know the people that shop in and support their business looks like. The owner-operators that are going to continue to be successful, are the ones that are not afraid to do the work, whether that means studying for an exam, at the end of a long week, or making a delivery at 8pm, because a customer called, late. 

We've learned a ton about running a business, since the early days of the flagship store and for this, we are eternally grateful. From a nimble concept and first store, to a company that would help us replicate our process, all the while providing the beer industry with a better understanding of the products that existed, from small or unknown breweries, that might not otherwise have been discovered or allowed the opportunity to find a home, like they have in our stores, to a hope of making and contributing to this difference, while providing a life for ourselves, was a real possibility.

We're not anything other than beer geeks and we've never wavered from that position. We haven't, but we think many store owner-operators have. In the beginning, all agreed with us; our method, direction and defined documentation! We talked about beers, breweries, trips, travel, festivals, how we met, who we looked up to and respected in the industry, and what our plan was for the future. We mused about what getting to 50 stores, and then 100, would look like. We willfully shared beers and an understanding that with a small franchise fee and (low) monthly royalties, there was a small company, that had always been grassroots, without giant corporate backing. All said they agreed with the defined philosophies of what made Craft Beer Cellar what it is. But they all didn't really agree, we've come to realize. Some saw an opportunity at an inexpensive business investment, which may have seemed like more fun than real work. 

Granted, we’ve always made it look easy. And on some level, it is, but that’s because we love what we do and we all know that saying, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life!” We opened our flagship store nearly nine years ago and began franchising Craft Beer Cellar only eighteen months in. Sure, there’s a lot that has transpired in this time, but we’ve always been transparent with our business lives. The suggestion that there is more to the story is positioned by some owner-operators that are doing a colorful job of telling stories, instead of working to become a successful Craft Beer Cellar!

Kate Baker

In addition to being an adviser for Craft Beer Cellar's Franchise Company, every day, Kate works tirelessly to bring Craft Beer Cellar Belmont the best beer this amazing industry has to offer; and sometimes, she does it literally, by way of the delivery van! A restaurateur in her past life, Kate made the jump to retail and hasn’t looked back. Everything she does is for amazing beer. A devotee of hospitality, inclusion, welcoming environments, and any song by Brandi Carlile, Kate can always be found in and around Belmont and believes hugs and hi-fives make craft beer a better place.

The beer she can't stop thinking about:
Allagash White (In CANS!!!)

Suzanne Schalow

After working in beer for more than a decade, Suzanne rolled up her sleeves and got serious about her beer education - in 2012, she earned the title of Certified Cicerone®! Since that time, she’s wrangled with Cicerone’s advanced exams, become a judge for the Beer Judge Certification Program, and developed a retail beer educational program called The Society of Master Beercierge. Teaching and talking beer are two of the things she’s most excited about, which translate perfectly when working with new & potential Craft Beer Cellar franchisees. A lover of most styles, she believes a perfect beer is balanced by the sum of its parts, especially if it's Belgian!

The beer she can't stop thinking about:
Jack's Abby Sunny Ridge Pilsner