A brewery that left Franklin two years after receiving more than $100,000 from the city to improve its business is setting up shop in a historic Greenwood building.
This is Hoosier Brewing Company’s third home in two years. First, the company moved from Shelby County to a Franklin shopping center on the city’s east side. The brewer closed both of those locations last year and is preparing to open at a popular spot in downtown Greenwood.
But this time, the business model looks different, and Hoosier Brewing Co. owner Brian Nentrup has no plans of relocating again, he said in written responses to questions.
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Four partners have joined his venture at the former Blind Pig location, 147 S. Madison Avenue. Those partners are: Matt Crawford; Mike Crowder; Mike Rincker; and one silent partner, according to a news release.
Nentrup will focus entirely on beverage production, he said, and Rincker will manage the restaurant and taproom. They are not receiving tax incentives from the city.
The distillery will be the main focus of the new location, and passerby will be able to see brewing equipment in the historic building’s large picture windows along Madison Avenue.
A newly formed umbrella company, dubbed Hoosier Beverage Brands, will include the Hoosier Brewing and Hoosier Distillery brands and a tap room called Tap and Axe. It will also include an axe throwing arena, a first for Indy’s southside. All will be located in downtown Greenwood.
Brewery owners expect to be open this spring.
“We will be brewing some of the old favorites, but honestly we are a different company with the new partners’ influence. The feeling will be much different as well since we are focusing heavily on the beverage side of the business in this operation,” Nentrup said.
The group purchased the building for $300,000 in March, before Nentrup called it quits in Franklin, and together, they have spent the last several months gutting the interior and remodeling it, said Kevin Steinmetz, Greenwood’s capital projects manager.
They’ve stumbled across several historic features, such as wood beams and exposed brick, which they plan to clean up and keep intact.
“The historic value of the building made this a perfect choice. Behind the plastic-covered brick walls and multiple drop ceilings, we found a gem of a building,” Crowder said in a news release.
Hoosier Brewing Co. also made improvements to its Franklin location, but used city money to do so. That building is now occupied by Wooden Bear Brewing, which is slated to open soon. Wooden Bear also operates a brewery in Greenfield and a tap room in Geist.
So far, Hoosier Brewing hasn’t asked Greenwood for any money, Steinmetz said.
The brewery would be eligible for a G.R.O.W. grant, which would help with exterior building improvements and facade work, but it would not be eligible for any sort of incentives, such as tax breaks or abatements. City leaders are aware of its history, Steinmetz said.
So far, Hoosier Beverage Brands has paid for all of the improvements made to the old Blind Pig building in downtown Greenwood itself, Steinmetz said.
In 2016, Franklin’s redevelopment commission approved spending $138,000 to remodel and equip Hoosier Brewing’s Franklin location, bringing new life to a building off King Street near Interstate 65. Hoosier Brewing was leasing the building and got a grant to make needed improvements and buy new equipment. The owners met the requirements of that grant, which didn’t require that they stay open a certain period of time.
“One thing I wanted to point out is that Wooden Bear found this space very attractive based on the improvements that were made to the property by Hoosier Brewing through the use of these funds. We were very disappointed to hear that Hoosier Brewing closed, but ultimately what was invested into Hoosier Brewing was instrumental in attracting a subsequent user at this location,” said Krista Linke, Franklin’s community development director.
Franklin city documents show that the city wrote more than 50 checks for the project between March and September of 2016, about 40 of which were made out to Nentrup. He spent all but $18.33 of the $138,500 the city promised him to remodel the shopping center’s exterior and interior, including updating the kitchen and plumbing, according to those documents. Those improvements stayed with the building when Nentrup closed.
He had asked the city for another $55,000 to finish the inside of the building and buy more equipment needed for their brewing operations, but backed out after members of the redevelopment commission asked about his personal investment in the business.
Nentrup closed his operation in Fairland in January 2018, after pleading for business on social media and in traditional media. About seven months later, in July, he closed his restaurant in Franklin after making similar pleas for support.
“We loved Franklin. We poured out our heart and soul as we tried so hard to get the Hoosier Brewhouse to work in our favor. Food service is one of the most difficult industries to be in and many times, late winter and early spring can be very tough for restaurants,” Nentrup said in a written response to questions.
He quickly realized, due to Hoosier Brewing’s location in Franklin and how far it was from downtown, they needed to focus more on food than beer, and that’s not Nentrup’s area of expertise, he said.
Continuous road construction in the area caused a 50 percent reduction in sales, he said.
“During that time, we made contact with Wooden Bear (Brewing) and hoped to make a seamless transition, but could not hold on long enough. We are excited that they can use the location for their project, and build off of what we started,” Nentrup said. “We are rooting for Wooden Bear.”
Now, along with his new business partners, they are investing their own money in Greenwood. All of the partners live in the Greenwood and Southport areas.
“We have great roots in the community,” Nentrup said.
“We would have loved to stay in Franklin. We gave it our all, and just could not take the losses any further. I hope to never have to relocate again.”