Some WNY Breweries Are Not Only Surviving But Thriving
Western New York is set be home to around a dozen new breweries by years end after what for some was an excruciating 14 months for businesses.
Those that decided to stay open during the past year made it through with production, innovation and creativity.
Tim Herzog, owner of Flying Bison Brewing Company, told WIVB-TV started seeing hints of a shutdown in late February of last year.
“When the shutdown came in mid-March, then it was painfully obvious that we were going to have to make major changes here,” Herzog said.
Herzog was used to change- but no one could have predicted what he and his staff would have to endure as the shutdown extended past the first two weeks.
“What we were trying to avoid a full parking lot and a line,” Herzog said. “In pre-covid days, that’s what you want. You want a full parking lot and a line because it says, hey this is a great place, let’s keep going.”
More than half of Flying Bison’s revenue is from sales at bars and restaurants. Both were suddenly gone, leaving them with only grocery sales.
“We lost that immediately, and almost a year and a half later, it’s coming back, but very slowly,” Herzog said.
So they extended hours, advertised on social media and created a beer pickup service that drew customers to their parking lot.
Herzog applied for a government PPP loan to keep the lights on and his six employees on the job, which was a top priority.
Since the reopen, Herzog’s been driving people back to Larkinville- with events like running clubs, parking lot yoga, dog adoptions and vaccination clinics.
Similar events kept the lights on at Resurgence and 42 North Brewing companies.
Jeff Ware the president of Resurgence Breweryrewarded craft beer drinkers with curbside food pickup, and a flow of new beer offerings, each one a bigger hit than the next.
“I think there were people that bought beer just to make sure that we’d stay open,” Ware said. “I think there were refrigerators that were full of beer, and they still came down and bought a case of beer. And we’re so incredibly grateful for that.”
Similar events fueled traffic at 42 North...
“We had people who came to the drive-thru who never drank craft beer before,” said John Cimperman, founder, 42 North Brewing Co.
Like Herzog and Ware, Cimperman had to shift almost overnight from selling beer from the brewery and restaurants to local store shelves.
“We created a destination, which for 14 months no one could come to,” Cimperman said. “So our model immediately had to shift to retail.”
Their breweries and beer couldn’t be more different, but Herzog, Ware and Cimperman all agree: their breweries came out stronger on the other side of the pandemic.
“I think we’re coming into a summer that’s going to be gangbusters for everybody because I think that people are really ready to rock and roll and we’re certainly ready to have them,” Ware said.
One of the most successful new programs created during the pandemic was Resurgence Pints in the Park program.
Last year, they set up shop at Delaware, Cazenovia and other parks, and they were a huge hit.
This year, the owners of Resurgence, 42 North and Flying Bison are teaming up with the Erie County Parks and Rec department to host a dozen of these events in what will no doubt be a busy summer .