Success Story

Alewife

We really appreciated the help the SBDC provided. It really helped to have an objective review of our business plan.

Kelly Pickard and Jamie Burket have a passion for beer. Craft beer, that is. While living in Washington DC, they began to explore opportunities to be a part of the growing craft beer market. Several cities were scouted throughout the southeastern US to find an ideal location for a retail store and tasting room. Reasons such as saturated craft beer retail markets, limitations in permitting allowances, government alcohol regulations and unfavorable demographic data eliminated all but one of these cities as potential locations and confirmed that Jacksonville has a strong, but still emerging craft beer scene allowing for further growth in the industry without fear of market saturation.

Kelly and Jamie first visited the FSBDC at UNF in March 2013. They met with FSBDC business consultant Cathy Hagan and the FSBDC’s graduate assistant, to review the comprehensive business plan for Alewife, a craft beer bottle shop and tasting room. Cathy and Ashly provided an extensive critique of the plan, challenging their assumptions and making suggestions on how to get the plan ready to present to a lender for financing. Kelly and Jamie returned to Washington DC later that year but kept in touch with Cathy and sent an updated plan for additional review. In early 2014, they reached out to Cathy for referrals for financing and insurance.

One of the biggest challenges for Kelly and Jamie was finding the right location. They were very focused on one particular part of Jacksonville with a vibrant, walkable retail area and found a spot they felt was perfect. After months of working with a realtor, the deal fell through. They turned their sights on another part of town with a similar feel and were pleased to find a spot available in Riverside. “We never imagined that the most time consuming and difficult part of the process (besides writing the business plan, of course) was finding the right location! We were naive to think it would take us just a month or two. But we truly believe we found the right place for us.”

The next step was securing financing. From among Cathy’s referrals, they called on 121 Financial Credit Union, presented their business plan, and secured the funds they needed to start Alewife. One of the strongest parts of the business plan was the management section that demonstrated the commitment and expertise of Kelly and Jamie. Not only were they fans of craft beer, but they spent much time gaining education about the industry. Kelly became a Cicerone Certified Beer Server in 2012 and is currently studying to become a Certified Cicerone. Those who achieve this certification level have a deep and well-rounded knowledge of beer and beer service as well as competence in assessing beer quality and identity by taste. Jamie will primarily handle duties related to back-of-house operations (accounting, marketing, etc.). She will tackle these duties on a part-time basis until the business can sustain a second full-time owner-operator. Jamie has conducted extensive research on the industry, including visits to several craft beer retail stores across the country where she examined their varied business practices.

Alewife’s doors opened in March 2015 at 1035 Park Street in Riverside’s Five Points neighborhood. Kelly and Jamie are very pleased with the reception from Jacksonville’s craft beer community. Alewife offers singles, six-packs, mixed packs, and large format bottles to go as well as on-site consumption for a per bottle upcharge. The bottle shop inventory features over 200 bottles with a selection available in refrigerated coolers for immediate enjoyment. An extensive shelving display features bottles for purchase to go. A tasting bar features draft lines for 5 oz. tasters and full 10 – 16 oz. pours of continually rotating American craft beer. The tasting bar offers varying styles in order to educate the consumer and expand their craft beer palate. For those interested in on-site beer consumption, a small conversational seating area accommodates twenty guests and an indoor beer garden accommodating another 20+ guests features picnic tables, corn hole and various board games. These patrons are permitted to bring in outside food from neighboring establishments while enjoying Alewife’s beer selection.

What will truly set Alewife apart from its competitors is a fee based education series designed to expand the consumer’s craft beer knowledge base. Alewife will offer a blend of educational sessions and beer tastings exploring topics such as beer styles, the brewing process, and the history of beer. Food pairing based themes will also be explored including which styles of beer match best with various cuisines and why cheese and beer perfectly complement each other.

If you look back at Kelly and Jamie’s first business plan draft, you will see that while they made updates to reflect the suggestions offered by the FSBDC, as well as the change in location, the concept they envisioned remained solid. The passion that ignited the vision for Alewife came to life. “Alewife isn’t just a store or bar,” said Kelly. “Instead, it’s a celebration of beer, the craftsmen (and women) who brew it, and the drinkers who respect it.”

AlewifeKelly Pickard and Jamie Burket

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