When life and business partners Derek and Stacey Edinger decided to bring together their love of craft brewing and hospitality to form a new business, they wanted to differentiate their offerings from other breweries founded during New York State’s craft-brewing boom. The result was Brewery Ardennes, the perfect fit for their niche in the beautiful Finger Lakes region. Here’s how they worked with Pursuit, their bank, and the SBA 504 loan program to bring their vision to life.
Returning to their roots
Derek and Stacey met at Cornell University; Stacey honed her skills as a hospitality executive working for hospitality-industry leaders and Derek was an accomplished home brewer and aerospace executive. They lived for many years in San Francisco and also traveled extensively, including to Belgium, where they fell in love with its lush landscape and legendary Belgian ales.
Ready for a change, they came back to the Finger Lakes region where they’d first met. Stacey remained in hospitality while Derek’s career took a turn to tech – and, at the same time, he ramped up his home-brewing hobby that, he says, soon took on a life of its own.
Before long, they decided to leave corporate life and build a Belgian-style craft brewery.
The perfect place for a life-changing pivot: A home for Brewery Ardennes
“We had some concerns that maybe we were too late to enter the craft-brewing industry,” Derek admits. “But we also knew that what we wanted to offer was different. We spent a lot of time strategizing about how to best leverage every aspect of what would become our business, especially finding the right location.”
After a two-year search, they found the perfect location – a mixed-use property that was part of a former Finger Lakes estate in Geneva, NY. There was a home on the property in which they could live and a barn that they envisioned as their brewery and tasting room.
The right financing partnership brings a dream to fruition
The Edingers had initially purchased the property as a residential property. Bringing the brewery to fruition, though, meant renovating the barn for office space, purchasing brewing and bottling equipment, building out and furnishing the tasting room, adding a commercial kitchen that could handle large events, and purchasing outdoor furnishings for the four-acre property near Seneca Lake.
Stacey explains, “The property was zoned as agricultural, so taking all the steps necessary to enable mixed use was complex and it took a lot to make this work.” It included splitting off the barn and acreage that would be used for the commercial venture – a step completed just days before the pandemic forced businesses to close.
They still needed financing to finish the project, including purchasing equipment. “Suddenly, we found ourselves planning for a new business in the middle of a pandemic, and no one had any idea what things would look like when craft breweries reopened,” Derek says.
Their representatives at M&T Bank suggested Pursuit as a partner for an SBA 504 loan – a loan program that can be used for commercial-property renovations, equipment purchases, and to purchase commercial real estate, with excellent terms for borrowers – and the Edingers were thrilled to learn that Pursuit was here to help small businesses get financing, even in the thick of the pandemic.
“Because of the SBA 504 process, our Pursuit team really pressed us to think through every detail and challenge, like potential weaknesses in our supply chain, to ensure that we were prepared. In the end, it made opening and running the business much smoother,” Derek says.
Today, Brewery Ardennes is open year-round, with about six staff members in the winter and double that from May through October. Stacey and Derek love to serve their favorite Belgian ales – hers is a dubbel and his is a tripel – along with seasonal specialties and customer favorites like their Belgian blonde ale. They also distribute to about 75 clients, including bars, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Creating a new legacy for a landmark property
Derek and Stacey created the niche that they needed to succeed. As Stacey says, “We’ve differentiated Brewery Ardennes in several ways. First, by offering a range of Belgian ales. Another is to have this historic landmark building with the most incredible views. And a third is the food we offer – we have a professional chef who uses fresh, locally sourced ingredients and knows how to make the most of the entire experience.”
And about their SBA 504 loan experience with Pursuit, Stacey says, “There were so many unknowns, but our Pursuit team was terrific. Derek and I are pretty certain that there was a lot of work that Pursuit did for us behind the scenes to make this work, more than we know.”
In 2021, Brewery Ardennes was awarded Small Business of the Year by the Landmark Society of Western New York for the renovation and reuse of the historic barn that’s become a destination Belgian brewery in the heart of the Finger Lakes.
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