Brewery Vivant Turns Warehouse into New Branding Opportunity

​Visiting Brewery Vivant in Grand Rapids, Michigan, you notice a few things. First, it’s in a former chapel with an Old-World feel. The brewery’s taproom has a high foodservice mentality with its beer portfolio including Belgian styles. It’s been a boon for co-founder Jason Spaulding. Yet, introducing newer styles — like a New England IPA — just didn’t feel right for the Vivant brand.

As the Brewery Vivant brand grew since opening in 2010, space was becoming an issue. So expansion outside of the four walls of the facility became a necessity. That means at one point the brewery had four storage areas around the city they had to use — including cold storage, warm storage, and dry goods storage.

What started as a means to combine all the storage into one area is now a second location for the brewery. But it was still gnawing at Spaulding that his brew team wanted to delve into newer styles and bring creations to the public that may not be the norm for Brewery Vivant. So a three-barrel brewing system that was used as a yeast propagation facilitator was shipped to the new location and eventually, Broad Leaf Local Beer was born.

“It started off just being like a function of our production,” Spaulding said. “Then once we actually found this building, we had the ability to do an extra taproom. Obviously, we’re paying attention to how things are going.

“Taprooms are a big driver of revenues for breweries. Vivant is more of a restaurant than what I would call a taproom and we’ve done really, really well with it.”

On paper, the move into one facility for storage was going to reduce costs.

“By the time we got done renovating and we built a 4,000 square foot cooler — and then actually turning this into a pub with a kitchen — the costs just escalated to a point where now maybe it wasn’t quite the initial napkin sketches of savings I had the beginning,” Spaulding said with a chuckle. “However, it’s nice because we have a functionality piece and a front piece and we have a rental space. So all those things together make it a pretty good deal for us still. But it wasn’t quite the grand savings I was calculating at first blush.

“If you knew what you’re getting yourself into with a brewery on the front end, no one would probably do it. You have to kind of keep believing that it’s going to be great and then you sort of like sink or swim.”

Broad Leaf opened in the late spring of 2019 and Spaulding isn’t hiding the fact that Brewery Vivant and Broad Leaf have the same ownership. He moved his office to the new location and other than service staff, the brew team works at both facilities. Both taprooms now serve both. brands beer. But Broad Leaf is not being touted as a new location for Brewery Vivant.

“We’re related as a family, but we’re trying to do something totally different,” Spaulding explained. “I think most people get it. When you walk in here, it doesn’t feel like Vivant. You can sense that we’re doing something different. It’s a more self-directed service. We got a food truck-style kitchen while Vivant is a high-end table-service place.”

Spaulding did note that there are commonalities between the two.

“We’re still focused on sustainability. We’re big in trying to tie into the community. All those things that we’re kind of known for are still the same,” he said. “We’re a B Corp at both places. We put a lot in to take care of employees, benefits and things like that.

“But, the personalities of the place individually, the types of beers, types of food, we let those kinds of flow their own way.”

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