The owners of Chelsea Alehouse Brewery will be moving into the heart of downtown Chelsea this spring and changing their business model to emphasize a variety of new offerings in their brewpub.
Chris Martinson, who owns the business with his wife Aubrey, says the public space in the new location at 115 S. Main in Chelsea is about the same as in the current location at 420. N. Main St., Suite 100. However, the move will provide about 30 percent more non-public space. That will allow Chelsea Alehouse to expand its kitchen and provide a more diverse menu.
The new customer space will also feel "cozier," Martinson says, with hardwood floors and exposed brick giving it more of a pub feel than the current location's warehouse atmosphere.
Martinson says he had always wanted to be downtown, but it didn't work out six years ago when he was establishing the business.
"Chelsea has a really busy downtown, and we're only a five-minute walk from downtown, but we find that people who might be downtown for the farmer's market don't venture down to where we are," Martinson says.
The new location is across the street from the Common Grill and shares a back parking lot with the Purple Rose Theatre. Martinson says he expects that being "right in the mix" downtown will attract new walk-in business.
With the five-year lease on the brewery's current space running out, Martinson says it made sense to move and make some operational changes the Martinsons had been planning all at the same time, including switching from a microbrewery license to a brewpub license. That change reflects a lower legal limit to the brewery's production volume, and prioritizes on-site business over distribution.
"We will still make our own beers that people love and come in for, but we'll also have beers on tap from other breweries, along with wine and cider and spirits," Martinson says. "We really want to expand what we do with beer education and be able to bring in different beers and do more tastings."
Those tastings will focus on Michigan and regional breweries, which is in line with Chelsea Alehouse's core mission to focus on local ingredients when possible, Martinson says.
"We want to have events that highlight how beer is made and the different styles," he says. "We could bring in maybe a variety of lagers or New England-style IPAs from five different breweries for a tasting."
Live music by local musicians will continue at the new location, with bluegrass band Thunderwüde performing on Wednesdays and jazz on Sundays, but Martinson also thinks the new space might lend itself to experimenting with different types of music.
The current location will close in late February, and the owners are aiming to open the new space sometime in April, after remodeling is finished.
Updates will be available on the brewery's website and Facebook page.
Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Doug Coombe.