$11 million HQ move brewing

$11 million HQ move brewing

September 25th, 2011 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

Chris Hair rips down temporary walls while renovating the 201 W. Main St. structure being named the Craftworks building.

Photo by Dan Henry /Times Free Press.

From local big river to global craftworks

Founded < Big River Breweries was founded in 1993 by restaurateur Tim Hennen, acquiring Gordon Biersch in 1999. Rock Bottom Restaurants was founded in 1976, merging with Gordon Biersch in November 2010 to become Craftworks.

Revenues < More than $500 million

Majority owner < New York-based Centerbridge Capital Partners LP Restaurants < More than 170

Staff < About 10,000

HQ staff < 129

Western office < Louisville, Colo.

Source: Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries, Kinsey Probasco Hays


1979 < Old Chicago founded in Louisville, Colo., by Frank Day

1979 < Boulder Beer receives brewing license as Colorado's first microbrewery

1990 < Rock Bottom Brewery founded by Day under Rock Bottom Restaurants umbrella that includes Old Chicago and other brands

1993 < Big River Grille & Brewing Works opened downtown by Tim Hennen, part of an investment group that included Allen Corey, Rob Gentry and Jon Kinsey.

1997 < Allen Corey becomes CEO of Big River

1999 < Big River acquires Gordon Biersch restaurants, adopting Gordon Biersch name

2006 < Bluewater Grille launched in downtown Chattanooga, Big River Grille & Brewing Works opened at nearby Hamilton Place

2010 < Centerbridge Capital Partners buys majority of both Rock Bottom Restaurants and Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant Group, renaming the new company Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries. Corey stays on as CEO of the combined restaurant group, with Day taking over duties as chairman of the board

2011 < Craftworks moves headquarters to downtown Chattanooga

Source: Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries

Southside warehouse

Building Name < CraftWorks building

Location < 201 W. Main Street

Developer < Kinsey Probasco Hays

Owners < Kinsey Probasco Hays, Frank Fowler, Jim Cooper and Ty Cooper

Lender < CapitalMark Bank & Trust

Architect < Artech Design

General contractor < Morgan Construction

Existing retail tenants < Townsend Atelier and The Hot Chocolatier

New Office Tenants < CraftWorks, The Lupton Co. and Kinsey Probasco Hays

Source: Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries, Kinsey Probasco Hays

Craftworks brands

Craftworks operates more than a dozen restaurant brands.

U.S. Brands

A1A Ale Works < 1 unit

Big River Grille & Brewing Works < 4 units

Bluewater Grille < 1 unit

The ChopHouse & Brewery < 5 units

Gold Medal Tap < 1 unit

Gordon Biersch < 31 units

GB Tavern < 1 unit

Old Chicago < 97 units *

Ragtime Tavern < 1 unit

Rhythm & Brews < 1 unit

Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery < 32 units

Seven Bridges Grille & Brewery < 1 unit

Sing Sing < 2 units

The Walnut Brewery < 1 unit

By the end of 2011

* Includes 36 franchised locations

Source: Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries

International operations

Gordon Biersch Taipei Xinyi

Gordon Biersch Taipei Dunbei

Gordon Biersch Taichung

Chattanooga restaurants

Big River Grille & Brewing Works opened downtown in 1993

Big River Grille & Brewing Works opened at Hamilton Place in 2006

Bluewater Grille opened June 2006

Source: Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries

Craftworks Restaurants & Breweries is set to move its home office to downtown Chattanooga, triple its corporate staff and begin an aggressive franchising expansion, CEO Allen Corey says.

"We're going to grow all our brands," the native Chattanoogan said, before rattling off a few of the 16 franchises that he'd like to expand in the next five years.

Corey has targeted Old Chicago, Gordon Biersch and Rock Bottom for immediate expansion, with others to follow.

Craftworks, which operates several high-grossing local restaurants like Big River Grille and Bluewater Grille, has grown both organically and through several acquisitions -- from one eatery in an old trolley barn to more than 170 restaurants in the U.S. and overseas.

Customers seem to like food that's made from scratch and washed down with a local beer. They like it so much that the company is bringing in about half a billion dollars in revenue and growing at 10 percent to 15 percent a year, Corey said.


But to increase the number of restaurants, Craftworks first needs space to grow its corporate footprint.

The new headquarters for Craftworks is a 70,000-square-foot warehouse on Main Street. Corey said the new office will allow Craftworks to triple its Chattanooga staff from 40 employees to 115, and then to double the number of franchise stores to 60 in the five-year period.

Construction of the mixed-use building, which is already under way, could be finished as soon as February.

"This move brings us back downtown and back to the culture of our group," said Corey, who describes the company's staff as "young, smart, with great work ethics."

Craftworks will retain a Louisville, Colo., office.


The building's owners will spend between $9 million and $11 million to renovate the 107-year-old Southside warehouse, where Craftworks will occupy the top floor.

It's a wood, brick and steel colossus that co-owner Jon Kinsey has "coveted for years," which had been used mostly for storage over the last century.

Now workers are installing elevators, heating and air conditioning, a new roof and even an in-house bar. But the exposed brick and wood that lends the structure its urban charm is being maintained, Kinsey said.

The increased visibility Craftworks garners from its new headquarters could be useful in the company's multimillion dollar philanthropic efforts as well, Corey said.

The company gives away hundreds of thousands of dollars to charitable foundations in Chattanooga, including an employee-funded foundation that exists to assist Craftworks workers in personal or medical emergencies.

"If you're not committed to the community, you can't work for us," Corey said.

More than 39,000 of the 46,000 square feet of office space is already spoken for, with Lupton Co. and Kinsey Probasco Hays slated to take up most of what's left, Kinsey added.

"We would have never tried a $10 million investment if we didn't know that building was going to be occupied by Craftworks, Lupton and ourselves," he said. "For Chattanooga to be home to the biggest cool new restaurant company is amazing to me."

But that still leaves plenty of room for "two to three" retailers on the ground floor, he said, which would liven up the block.


The Southside addition allows for a world of possibilities for an area that's already seen healthy growth through the midst of a national real estate crisis, said Kim White, head of nonprofit developer River City Co.

A new center for employment downtown could spur construction of restaurants, shops and housing.

"It really becomes a catalyst, because you see a need for more coffee shops and more restaurants, and it creates a ripple effect," she said.

Happily, though renovating an old warehouse means a lot of work, it's a lot less work than it used to be, she said.

"It used to be you spent a lot of money putting in the fixed ceilings and regular lights, but now people are looking at more industrial looking space, taking it down to the concrete floors -- which is a lot cheaper from a landlord perspective," White said.

But White said that the most important thing Craftworks' move brings is people, to an area of downtown that not so long ago was bereft of human activity.

"The crew they're going to bring here is going to be awesome," White said. "I think this is taking what has really been a nondescript, underutilized building and turning it into something amazing."