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Batavia Brewing Company

February 23, 2017 - 2:57pm

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Sometime in 2017, there may be beer on tap in the former JJ Newberry building on Main Street, Downtown Batavia.

Matt Gray (top photo, pointing toward the back of the room to his partner in the Batavia Brewing Co. venture, Jon Mager) made the announcement during a Start Up Genesee event at the location yesterday, and said that the Fresh Labs concept for the Newberry building is ready to go forward.

The blueprints are in place, permits pulled and a contractor selected and Gray believes all of the work -- a brewery, a restaurant and two additional full kitchens for start-up restaurants along with seven apartments on the second and third floors -- will be completed by the end of the year.

The Fresh Labs concept was taken on by Gray and Mager in cooperation with the Batavia Development Corp. to help achieve several local goals, he said -- bring more people downtown, provide a way for aspiring restaurateurs to start their businesses and help the city retain some of the $28 million being spent by local residents on food and entertainment in Rochester and Buffalo. 

Gray said Fresh Lab will give people looking to break into the restaurant business a supportive environment throughout the process of developing a concept, getting it launched and helping it grow.

"We want to take the person who has the drive and the skill and work them through the point where they're ready to launch," Gray said. "We will give them direction and resources but then we don't walk way."

Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for BDC, said the BDC is working on a competition, sort of a taste challenge, as part of selecting the first two businesses that will be given space in Fresh Lab.

The building, which was a mortuary before it was Newberry's (it was Newberry's for 70 years), is three stories high with a large basement. Each level is 10,000 square feet. There will be seven studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments on the second and third floors. Those floors were once office space for doctors, lawyers and at one time, Batavia Area Jaycees, according to the sign on one door.

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Start Up Genesee is organized by Genesee County Economic Development Center and this was the initiative's third event. Bob Capurso was at the first, where he spoke with Chris Suozzi about the business idea he had: producing Boy Scout grave marker medallions. Suozzi, a VP with GCEDC, helped connect Capurso with advisors who were able to assist him in getting his business launched. He's gone from a concept six months ago, to a design to a prototype and now he's had the first 50 medallions produced and ready for sale. 

“My main goal on this is not to make a ton of money on this, but to get the commemoration out there to the people who earned it through their dedication to scouting,” he said.

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Another local start-up at the event was Eichenfeld LLC, makers of the game MöbileSchlägen. The company will hold a Kickstarter fundraising campaign this Saturday at City Slickers starting at 7 p.m.

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November 5, 2015 - 8:42am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Brewing Company, downtown, batavia, business, freshLAB, bdc.

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Matt Gray remembers the old J.J. Newberry's Downtown, with its creaky floors, dusty inventory and a lunch counter he would saddle up to next to his grandmother to enjoy a hot dog.

Now he owns that building, but his ambition far exceeds nostalgia. It's about revitalization and doing his part to bring vibrancy and economic growth back to his community.

Gray, along with partners Jon Mager and Matthew Boyd, will be the owners of the anchor tenant in an ambitious project backed by the Batavia Development Corp., Genesee County Economic Development Corporation, and Rural Development/USDA to help aspiring restaurant owners get a start in Downtown.

The partners are creating Batavia Brewing Company, a new microbrewery at 109 Main St., Batavia.

The location will also be known as freshLAB, a restaurant incubator where entrepreneurs with great ideas for unique menu items sourced mostly with local and regional ingredients can see if they can turn their food concepts into thriving businesses.

Mager said the ambition for the project is rooted in the fact that he and Gray grew up in Batavia, are businessmen in this community, are raising families here and want to see their community thrive.

"We wholeheartedly believe Batavia is a great place to live, work, play and raise a family," Mager said. "By joining the ranks of the many great places to eat and drink Downtown, we hope to be part of a complete and full resurgence and revitalization that is attracting people back to Downtown."

Gray said they picked a downtown location because that would generate the greatest economic impact, both for other restaurant and bar owners and for themselves.

"There were a lot of other pluses on a lot of other sites, including parking, but (what) it came down to, is we believe in the clustering effect," Gray said. "There are so many good restaurants and so much good nightlife already down in this area. Adding more to it is only going to make each one of us healthier. By going off on our own, we're going to have to fight uphill to trying to get people to come to us." 

Mager and Gray, who got his start in food business ownership with Matty's Pizzeria and currently own's Alex's Place along with restaurants in Southern states, first started talking about opening a brewery in 2013. In 2013, Mager completed training with the American Brewers Guild. 

At the same time, Julie Pacatte and the BDC board were looking at all this data saying too much restaurant and bar spending by local residents -- some $12 million -- was being spent outside of Batavia. People wanted more food choices locally. And there were a number of people who would come to the BDC for assistance in starting restaurants, but just didn't have the wherewith all to pull it off. So this incubator idea, which has been successful in other markets, started forming.

Pacatte heard about Mager and Gray's ambitions and recognized the possibility of a partnership.

"We want those dollars to say here," Pacatte said. "We want a reason for people to be eating and drinking in Downtown Batavia, more reason to do that. We want to offer a product that really ties our commerce, our downtown businesses to our agriculture community."

In a survey, the vast majority of respondents said they want healthier food choices in Batavia, they want more ethnic food (Millennials especially, marketing data shows, go for Far Eastern cuisines and spicier choices), and diners want more seafood.

"We're hoping that in this concept and in this project, that we're able to draw some of the folks in who can create some of those plates and meals and sandwiches or salads, that will be able to invent those kinds of meals and lunches and dinners and breakfasts here in Batavia," Pacatte said.

Rural Development is kicking in more than $67,000 in grants to provide equipment and furnishings for the "dining hall" element of the facility, that will be a shared space between the brewery and the food vendors. 

Steve Hyde, CEO of GCEDC, praised Gray and Mager for their foresight and willingness to take a risk, as entrepreneurs, to start a new business concept in their own community that will help their own community. Batavia is on the rebound, Hyde said.

"We have the innovation economy in our community now, higher-paying jobs, bigger-paying jobs, so our kids (can) stay here, come back home, and guess what, it makes this place a great place live, work and play and opportunities like this are going to make this happen even more," Hyde said. "It's really a great way to shine up the apple here in the city."

He said Mager and Gray are visionaries.

"It's so rewarding to us to have our local guys step up to the plate, invest in their community, and do what they're good at, 'cause this isn't new news for these guys," Hyde said. "This is right in their wheelhouse and they'll make it a great success."

November 3, 2015 - 5:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Batavia Brewing Company, batavia, downtown, business, freshLAB.

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Aspiring restaurant owners are going to get a unique opportunity to start their own businesses in a Downtown Batavia location that will be anchored by a new microbrewery, economic development officials will announce tomorrow.

A press conference is scheduled at 109 Main St., Batavia, at 3:45 p.m. to announce plans for freshLAB and the Batavia Brewing Company.

The freshLAB concept is borrowed from other successful restaurant incubators in larger markets, such as Dallas, Denver and Los Angeles. 

Batavia Brewing will be owned by a current local restaurant owner. Attempts to reach that owner to confirm his participation have been unsuccessful.

The announcement from officials of the press conference, however, makes clear a brewery is part of the plan (the logo included with the announcement is at the top of this post).

The concept of the restaurant incubator will be fully explained tomorrow, but Julie Pacatte, economic development coordinator for Batavia Development Corp. said the idea grew out of what the BDC board has observed for a number of years. The board had to turn down several requests to provide low-interest loans to proposed restaurants because of either undercapitalization or inexperienced aspiring owners.

With the incubator concept, aspiring restaurant owners can get started with a smaller initial investment and there will be advisors available to help them plan their concept, get up and running, manage the operations and hopefully, eventually, expand into a bigger, stand-alone location.

"Opening a restaurant is a big undertaking," Pacatte said, "60 percent fail within the first two to three years. This will provide those owners with a more affordable space and more coaching and guidance."

The location, 109 Main St., is the former Newberry's building. Most recently it was the location of T-Shirts Etc. and the Red Cross. It was previously the location of Main Street Coffee. Previous owner Ken Mistler has sold the building. The new owner will be announced tomorrow.

Also participating in the press conference is the Rural Development division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA will provide grant assistance for the restaurant incubator.

Part of the concept of the incubator is that aspiring restaurant owners must source most of their ingredients from farms from throughout the WNY region. The restaurant/food station concepts must also be unique to Batavia. The menu needs to be a different concept with offerings that vary from what's available in restaurants currently.

Part of the driver for creating the incubator is marketing surveys that show a lot of the entertainment and dining dollars spent by Batavia residents is flowing out of the county. Economic development officials hope to create a stronger cluster of restaurants in Batavia to help keep more of those dollars in the local community.

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