Attention Cliff Clavin, Norm Peterson, Sam Malone and even Carla Tortelli wannabes – Aaron Klingenschmidt and Jeff Miller want to know your name.
The two don’t own a bar but have the next best thing, maybe even better – a bottle shop.
What’s a bottle shop? It’s a shop full of craft beers – more than 300 brands – which you can buy one a time or by mixing them in one-of-a-kind six packs, whatever strikes your beer-loving fancy.
Their Main Street Bottle Shop officially opened in downtown Rock Hill last week.
Even before the shelves were fully stocked, they sold a case of Imperial Pumking Ale made by Southern Tier Brewing Co. of Lakewood, N.Y.
As the name suggests, this is an ale for royalty. It’s low in bitterness, high in flavor and often hard to come by.
Finding the hard-to-find craft beers is just one of the things that makes the business challenging, said Klingenschmidt and Miller.
“The fun is the hunt,” Klingenschmidt said. And they want to be asked to hunt. Don’t be afraid to ask them to track down a beer if they don’t have it, they said. The harder to find, the better.
Like the “Cheers” clan, Klingenschmidt and Miller are beer drinkers.
Miller has been seeking and sipping craft beers since 1989, when he discovered beers imported from Europe. Klingenschmidt got hooked on the beers from Red Oak Brewery, a Whitsett, N.C., microbrewery, while a student and waiter at the University of North Carolina.
With experience in marketing and the restaurant business, the friends have wanted to open a bottle shop for several years. No store felt right until they walked into 153 E. Main St., the former location of the Moments in Time heritage store.
The store is almost a half a city block deep, but extremely narrow, less than 10 feet wide. The dimensions reminded them of a beer can. They had found their perfect location.
The regional craft beer industry has been expanding rapidly. In 2009 there were no craft brewers in Charlotte. Now there are 18, with 15 hoping to open soon. That makes Charlotte the fifth-fastest growing craft beer market, Klingenschmidt said. The two founded CLTBEER.com, a website focused on craft beer in the Queen City.
But the duo isn’t focused on Charlotte this time. Rock Hill is poised for a craft beer explosion, they said.
One reason is the growing number of millennial residents, they said. The typical craft beer drinker is in his late 20s and early 30s – one of the faster growing population segments in York County.
Another plus is the emerging Knowledge Park effort by the city and private developers, as well as the growth of downtown restaurants, they said. Legal Remedy, a craft brewery-restaurant on Oakland Avenue, hopes to open soon.
“That momentum is why we chose Rock Hill,” they said.
They hope three things set them apart:
▪ Lots of craft beers from the Carolinas, including Benford, which is brewed in Lancaster. Their O’Soo Oyster oatmeal stout is brewed with real oysters.
▪ They are positioned between a traditional take-out store that usually has a few craft beers sold in four- and six-packs and a large warehouse operation, which want to sell cases of big brewers’ beer.
▪ And they want to have that “Cheers” mentality. They want to exchange names at the front door, walk you through the store while asking you about your beer preferences, and then expand on that, helping you assemble a selection of beers to challenge your taste buds.
That’s the beauty of craft beers, they say. The brews come in so many different flavors and tastes. The variety is limited only by the imagination of the brewer and the willingness of the consumer to try new things.
The price per beer varies, but they said for between $10 and $15 you can select your own six pack. Some of the harder to find beers carry a $20 price tag.
So far, customers have been impressed with the selection, and the two beer entrepreneurs said they already had some repeat customers in less than a week – a good sign for business success.
(For the TV trivia aficionados, the Bottle shop duo is setting its sights on becoming the “Frasier” of craft beers and not “The Tortellis.”)
Tom Efthimiades just moved from Boston – where fictional as well as real Cheers is located – to Rock Hill. He stopped by Friday, selecting six different beers. He said the shop reminded him of what he was used to in Boston.
Then Efthimiades spoke the words that warm every local merchant’s heart. He likes the Bottle Shop because “that means I don’t have to go to Charlotte.”
Need more info?
The Main Street Bottle Shop is located at 153 E. Main St, downtown Rock Hill. Contact them at info@MainStBottle.com or at 803-554-8309.