When the new Homeplace facility opened in February earlier this year, we were immediately overwhelmed by the community response, realized we had several kinks to work out and above all were looking forward to a wide-open year of big events. Late night singer-songwriter nights on our new indoor stage, sports nights on the mezzanine floor, non-profit benefit nights. A bigger and better No Place Like Homeplace beer fest in the fall.
As March rolled around (still the longest month in the history of months), and then April and then May, it became clear the 100-year virus slowly spreading across our world would force everyone (especially those in our industry) to rethink not only how we worked and lived but how we were to survive as business entities in an unprecedented time.
As states shut down for quarantine, breweries everywhere began to pivot toward off-premise (to-go) sales like never before. We set up a tent and drive-thru area in our parking lot to facilitate a very meager daily curbside operation, working in tandem with our food partners at Hog Hollow to continue business as best we could.
Many breweries got creative and hosted new events like pallet sales, one of which we were fortunate enough to participate in at Hi-Wire Brewing in Asheville in early April. The concept is several local breweries show up with a pallet of packaged beer and sell direct to customers filing through a make-shift drive-thru in their parking lot. Days like this helped generate enough revenue to keep most of our staff employed for a while, but unfortunately like nearly every food/beverage establishment we eventually had to lay off everyone until we were able to reopen at the end of May.
We stayed busy with planning and long-term projects while we were shut down, with several furloughed employees volunteering their time for things like discing, tilling and planting a new garden on a plot across from the brewery. The Jimmy Red corn we grew this season will be featured in an upcoming collaboration brew with our friends at Fonta Flora Brewery.
When we reopened for on-site dining at the end of May, our goal was to promote outdoor seating as much as possible, and we were blessed with a perfect venue for these circumstances. We shrunk our indoor seating by over half and added lots of picnic tables to the yard and distanced seating on the covered deck.
With the warm weather in full swing we were able to host one large event for the year, our Food Truck Rodeo in August. We hope to do at least two more of these events in 2021. The Cousins Lobster Truck, Brinehaus Meat and Provisions and Carolina Empanada Company provided a lot of tasty options to pair with Homeplace brews.
We were very fortunate to be able to hire back nearly all of our staff by the end of August, and with a busy summer season underway we occasionally made time to get away on outdoor adventures together.
It was a very productive year overall, as we increased our annual barrelage from 450 to nearly 1000 barrels of beer. We brewed up about 20 new beers this year, several of which made their way into 16 oz. cans. We were especially proud to raise $5,000 for our local Covid Relief Fund from sales of our Pull Together Pale Ale. Thank you to everyone in our community who helped make this possible!
As summer ended, a beautiful leaf season provided a big blast of much-needed business for our little mountain town, as Burnsville became a bit of a hideout and refuge for folks weary of large gatherings in big metro areas like Asheville, Charlotte and Atlanta.
We enjoyed the firepit through the leaf season and hosted several bands in our outdoor greenspace. Look for lots more music events in 2021!
We are incredibly grateful to have been able to make it through this year and at times actually thrive in ways that didn’t seem possible during the spring, when things looked bleak for all retail businesses. Our staff bravely and skillfully stepped up to meet the challenges of navigating a public-facing business during a pandemic with lots of rule changes and safety measures to consider. We have also been very lucky that everyone has remained healthy and safe up to this point.
As we close this year, like everyone we look toward a hopeful reset button in 2021. We want to host our beer fest again on the town square, book exciting outdoor music concerts and continue to do our part to bring business to Burnsville. Our town has a lot of potential to grow and the circumstances this year created will likely accelerate that growth for small communities near larger cities. Let’s take advantage of that opportunity while keeping the spirit and character of our town intact.
Cheers, best wishes and happy new year to everyone!