When Does a Second Location Make Sense?

How do you know when the time is right to add a second location?

Seven years after getting started, Virginia Beer Company co-founder Rob Willey is working that out. The pandemic temporarily shuttered their Williamsburg, Virginia taproom and beer garden, and they used that time to refresh the interior, come up with new packaging and labels for some of their beers, and grow their distribution.

All signs point to continued growth. If the growth continues, it will be time to do something else they’ve been talking about — opening a second location, although what format they would do that in remains unclear.

“It’s something I’ve been talking about for a long time with my business partner and we’ve got analysis paralysis,” Willey said. “We have had some good opportunities that have set ourselves up for success and have had good conversations with community partners. I haven’t put the finishing touches on what that would look like, whether it would be just another production facility or a brewpub with food so that we could have something that’s different from our current model. 

“I do know that we’ve had good feedback from fans and community partners and if we keep growing the way we’ve been growing, that decision might have to happen sooner rather than later.”

How do you know when it’s exactly the right time, though? Willey suggested you might never know that. You might have to look at some context clues, guess what’s ahead, trust your gut and take a leap of faith.

“There’s always risk involved,” he said. “Is this the right economy for us? We’ve tried to look past that a bit. It’s never the perfectly right time, but it could be the best possible time. We’ve worked harder than ever before to get our new packaging and releases in front of buyers and we’ve doubled down on [optimizing] our recipes. We’ve expanded our distribution and have our products at more touch points, on shelves and in restaurants, and we still have room to grow. 

“If these placements go well and our brand-identity refresh goes well, and we get another sales rep in the northern part of the state, we’ll see even more demand in bottle shops and grocery stores.”

It’s looking like this year could be the one to make a decision, he said.

“If 2023 keeps going well, we’re going to run out of space,” he said. “We’re going to run out of tank space and storage space. Adding office space helps in the short term but it won’t help long term. We’ll have to make some decisions.”

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