What Is Our Responsibility?

Tuesday, April 9th, 2019

In the past few weeks, we've learned alongside all of you, that three Craft Beer Cellar locations would be closing: Columbia, MO, Roslindale, MA and this past weekend, our location in the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston, which is scheduled to close at the end of this month. This unfortunate news is not something that we ever want to hear. There is a reality in business, however, especially in the beer industry these days, that not everyone is going to be accomplished. Success, as we all know, is measured in different ways, and in order to achieve the success we seek, a business owner must work tirelessly hard for some extended period of time, usually for a number of years. This is a concept that should not be new to anyone thinking of starting a business, whether their own entrepreneurial dream or that of a franchise business: it's hard! 

A Craft Beer Cellar is no different, despite the lure of 'beer' in our name. It's a business, like any other, that requires consistent nurturing, and that all store owner-operators follow our proven model of success. Though we've seen resistance to the latter, what we can undoubtedly tell you is that stores that have embraced our philosophies & methodology are doing well and running successfully. Albeit, with some of their own challenges, like on-going city construction, liquor licensing, high real estate costs, big box retailers, full service grocery chains, and most certainly, something every Craft Beer Cellar feels these days ... the ever-present competition from breweries with tap rooms, selling both on-and-off premise. This real competition seems to have cut some Craft Beer Cellar sales by up to 25%, depending on how close and how many of these brewery tap rooms are in their immediate vicinity.

Every Craft Beer Cellar store that opens is expected to endure numerous hours of training at our flagship location, with a staff of six people that have a combined level of retail, merchandising, beer, customer service & hospitality, and restaurant know-how that adds up to well over 100 years of experience. But not all of them get it done. And we've never been able to understand why an owner-operator that has invested in a business wouldn't want to fully check this box. We can't stop a business from closing, nor can we make an owner-operator complete their training before preemptively jumping to open. And something worth noting: every Craft Beer Cellar that has shuttered either did not fully complete their prescribed training, achieve or maintain their required level of (beer) education, or follow the methods of operation laid out for them.  

We never want to see a Craft Beer Cellar close! However, there are differing circumstances for each store that shutters. We are also deeply aware that blaming someone else for what must seem like failure is inherent in our society. We get it - pointing the finger at the franchise company is an easy choice, but not always the correct one. Someone asked a great question today ... "What's happening to the brand?" The answer is everything and nothing, all at the same time. We're a growing business and have some extremely excellent, smart and hard-working owner-operators in our company. Our leadership & training team are some of the brightest and most poised in the business. Like any young and growing company, we have some stages of metamorphoses still to go through; some feathers to shed and wings to spread. We know for certain that we're going to lose a few more stores, before we've weathered the storm, but we must. We must push forward with the right people, who believe in our philosophy, methodology and care about this industry - the foundation on which Craft Beer Cellar was built. 


To be the very best franchise company we can be. We have always understood this, as our role. Adding value, every day, to Craft Beer Cellar stores is what we strive to do, which is why we work so incredibly hard to provide a leadership team that can offer this support. Through education, product knowledge, connections, collaborative programming & events (when possible), partnerships with breweries, distributors, importers, creating and sharing assets, through digital technology and other platforms, we can add value to our stores and stay out in front. But all we can do is provide it - we can not do it for our stores, as much as we'd love to. 

We so often spend our time trying to reach our store owner-operators in real ways, so that they may be better prepared for an uncertain future. Here is an example of that, written and shared in October of 2015: 

We believe some of you may have actually gone to this recent Brewbound Brew Talks at the up-and-coming Castle Island Brewery. We wanted to take a minute and ask you to watch this 30 minute video if you are not familiar with the premise of these discussions last week.


Because these three players in the Boston & MA Market are enormously important to Craft Beer Cellar, as people, as well as friends & family, but most importantly, as breweries that are or were in our stores. 

If you are thinking about today only, and 
your Craft Beer Cellar, you might not be doing it right. We believe that we all have to be thinking about each other, how we grow stronger, together, and what tomorrow may look like.

Everyone is getting into the craft beer business - chain grocery stores, specialty food stores, and big box liquor stores, as well as every small neighborhood liquor store and mom & pop grocery from here to yonder. Why? Because, it's proven to be fun and lucrative (craft beer sales vs non-craft); everyone wants to be successful. We can't blame people as they are trying to run successful businesses and part of doing that is watching everything that Craft Beer Cellar is doing and you also know that, because you see it too. 

Sometimes, we are deemed as "too" critical of certain beers or breweries. We are attempting to make sure that we take care of ourselves and that we have staying power. That when people think of Craft Beer Cellar, that feelings are conjured up, of poise, promise, knowledge, education, down-to-earth, fun, exciting, awesome beer, beer education, good business people, smart entrepreneurs, cutting edge, etc. We're not trying to do an average job or sell beer that is just, well, good. 

When we watched this 
Brewbound Brew Talks and listened to Sam talk about chain grocery stores we were reminded of how real this is for them. They just invested millions of dollars in a facility, and now it seems that may have some real fears about having to start playing the corporate game. A game that squares breweries off with each other over a real fight for shelf space. 

Chris from Notch is a true hero in his voice for session beer. We couldn't be happier that he's actually going to have his own space in Salem and that we'll be able to tell customers that their brewery is located in Salem, MA. The second layer to the conversation with a customer involves his contract with Two Roads, in CT, to brew his beers. He's one of the real originals in this session beer movement and should be given that credit in your store!  

In fact, if you aren't selling five cases, each, of Notch and Jack's Abby in your store each week, we implore you to step up your game. We hand sell 80% of what's in our store and if you're not selling beers from these two breweries, we'd guess you are not talking about them enough and that you don't have them in cold storage. It may be time to make an adjustment.

So many times we hear rumblings of "our competitors" in reference to other stores in the off-premise retail game and we always try to squash it for the reasons that have been stated: we are not in competition with anyone!

I believe we've changed our mind. 

We are in competition with someone or will be in the next wave of local brewery openings, which is right now!

Highly sought after breweries with tap rooms, tasting bars, & restaurants are our biggest competition because they are keeping their highly sought after beers to sell out their front door, as you heard JC say. And just like Hill Farmstead, if people keep showing up then they will keep it in-house, or most of it. We need to make sure we are doing everything right to continue to prove to breweries like this that Craft Beer Cellar is where their beer should be, if they do send it into retail.

So don't take it personally if we ask you about certain breweries in your store. Or if we ask you to be more present to your socials, email marketing or try to get more involved in cross-promoting & marketing your local neighborhoods or why you have old beer in your back room. 

The vision of Craft Beer Cellar was founded on the idea of creating a beer store, whose primary focus is amazing beer, hospitality & education. We've worked hard to try to teach you everything we know about tasting beer first, so you can make good decisions about what's on your shelf, about ordering correctly, so you don't have beer going out of code. We will continue to work hard with and for you, so we can continue to lead our industry into the next wave of what it means to be at the forefront of what we are doing, and a store, of only a handful, that receives weekly deliveries from the most sought after brewery in their state, because of the job we do, every single day. 

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