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Kannapolis to have its first downtown brewery

Published Wednesday, November 16, 2016

KANNAPOLIS — Bill Collins, who has already opened a successful brewery in Bristol, Conn., wants to invest around $1 million to open Kannapolis’ first brewery.

Collins looks to revitalize the old Michelin Tire building at 100 West Ave. in downtown Kannapolis.

The City of Kannapolis, which owns downtown Kannapolis properties, will lease the property to Collins with an option to purchase the property. Kannapolis City Council approved the lease agreement during their meeting Monday.

Collins, who owns Firefly Hollow Brewing, initially reached out to the city in June 2015 to begin discussions about opening a brewery in Kannapolis and looks to develop Third Dimension Brewery here, according to the agenda packet for Monday’s meeting.

Third Dimension Brewery will pay the city $81,036 annually. The brewery hopes to open by the Fall of 2017, Collins said.

The brewery would to be open six days a week and have three to four full-time employees making about $40,000 a year and later hire about nine part-time employees.

Collins said the brewery will be on the same scale as New Sarum Brewing in Salisbury or Cabarrus Brewing Company in Concord. According to the agenda packet for Monday’s meeting, Collins expects Third Dimension Brewery to be a beer production site with a taproom that would produce more than 200 barrels a month. 

The taproom looks to have three to four “stable” beers with a variety of other beers each week.

“Because the draw for taprooms specifically is, ‘What do you have new this week?’” Collins said. “That way you can get a repeat visitor.”

Collins looks to start Third Dimension Brewery with his partners and brewers Russell Bennett and Jonathan Cahoon. Cahoon is  relocating from Connecticut and Bennett already lives in Salisbury.

The draw

When Collins decided he wanted to open another brewery, it was his friendship with Bennett that led him to look into the area. Bennett’s son lives in Kannapolis.

Collins said his friendship attracted him to the area, but it was downtown revitalization plan that Kannapolis City Council has adopted, that interested Collins. The plan calls for developing downtown apartments, a baseball stadium and a performing arts center.

“The downtown renovation project is extremely well planned,” Collins said.

Collins said this will be his second brewery, having opened  Firefly Hollow Brewing about three years ago.

Collins touted the success of his Connecticut brewery, stating that they’ve only been open for about three years, but already average about 2,000 people a week and has more than 11,165 Facebook followers, 3,255 Instagram followers and 3,623 Twitter followers.

“If you can make good beer, people will travel for it, regardless of whether or not there is other supporting characteristics around the brewery,” Collins said. “So, I can go in first to a place and build a brewery that will pull people in, even if afterwards there aren’t all of the restaurants to keep them there per say.”

Questions from the Mayor

But Kannapolis Mayor Darrell Hinnant challenged Collins, asking if his success in Connecticut would translate to success in Kannapolis.

“What happens if your best beer in Connecticut falls flat on its face in North Carolina and in Kannapolis and nobody likes it?” Hinnant asked.

Collins replied that they would adjust their recipes accordingly to find what the community likes. He talked about international beer standards and how recipes can be “dialed in” specifically for a community.

Hinnant also asked how long it would take to get to that 2,000 people per week figure and Collins said it would take about two years to meet that goal.

Hinnant asked if beer “palettes” were regional.

“People who enjoy beer in one region and don’t necessarily enjoy the same beer in other regions?” Hinnant asked.

Collins said beer is actually a tourism industry. Collins said Firefly routinely has patrons who visit from as far away as a four-hour drive.

“Once you enter a different region, you then go and try the beer of that region,” Collins said. “I’ve been to about 200 different breweries/brew pubs… So, I’ve had beer across the nation.” 

Building a brand

Third Dimension Brewery will have a taproom and Collins said they look to produce about 80 percent of their beer for patrons at the taproom with about 20 percent produced to be delivered to restaurants and other businesses.

“We’re placing beer into the market place as a form of marketing, to bring them back to the brewery,” Collins said. “So, for every tap handle that I have at a restaurant … that will make it where someone will go, ‘Hey! There’s a brewery in Kannapolis? Let me try their beer.’ If the beer is good they’ll look it up and explore it.”

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