What do you get when you combine friendship, business savvy, and a love of homebrew? You get five years of The Brew Shop, the best spot to pick up craft beer, a bottle (or case) of wine, and/or even your own homebrew supplies in Arlington. I chatted recently with Julie Drews (her Brew Shop partner Beth Helle was a little busy at the time – she literally was in labor with her second child!) about how they got here and how you can celebrate their 5th Birthday!
Beth and Julie met while they both worked as CPAs providing litigation consulting services. They began spending weekends together with their husbands dabbling in home brew. It started as a fun joke – “we should open a home brew supply shop!” Then the joke turned into a little research borne from curiosity. They learned that there were no bottle shops in the North Arlington area. They decided to draw up a business plan for a craft beer shop that also sells home brew supplies. They quickly learned that it made a lot of sense to add wine. The next thing they knew, they had selected their location and were planning a build-out of The Brew Shop.
Given their litigation consulting background, Julie and Beth were able to avoid a lot of the pitfalls that new business owners face. They were already skilled in accounting (a huge part of running the back-end of any business) and because a lot of their litigation consulting involved contract disputes, they were well prepared when it came time to review the lease for the shop. That freed them up to focus on learning the business itself. As time has gone on, Julie and Beth have transferred their relationship building skills from the consulting world to the craft brew and winery world. They have now built a solid network of core relationships with breweries, wineries, suppliers, and distributors so that they can bring a unique and wide-reaching selection to us in Arlington.
During the build-out of their shop, Julie and Beth put a “Coming Soon” sign in the window and started a blog on their progress. This generated a lot of excitement in the community. By the time they opened at the end of January 2016, they drew quite a crowd to welcome them to the neighborhood. As they grew, they brought on a salaried full-time manager and part-time staff. The entire time, Julie and Beth have been very hands on with their business. You will see them there just about every day (although Beth is currently on maternity leave). Over the years they have developed a solid and loyal local following.
It is gratifying to see that their loyal following has stuck with them, even during these challenging times. Julie and Beth have been able to adapt to changing circumstances, hold true to their principles, and continue to nurture their community of craft brew and wine enthusiasts from the initial COVID outbreak in March until the present day. From day one of the outbreak, they never had to close their doors. This doesn’t mean it was easy, but Julie and Beth were able to confront each obstacle and turn them into opportunities for growth.
Right around St. Patrick’s Day 2020, Julie and Beth went from hosting a packed St. Patrick’s Day event in the shop that Friday to limiting the number of patrons in the store to five at a time by Tuesday. Within a week or so, after consulting with their staff, Julie and Beth decided to ask customers to stay outside the store to maximize safety. They set up a table out front for walk-up customers. They started offering curbside pickup and expanded their wine and brew delivery service. While customers were no longer able to come into the store, they never stopped coming to the table. Lines have been forming regularly down the sidewalk since they made these changes.
The addition of curbside pickup and expanded delivery required Julie and Beth to implement an improvement that they had long intended to make – the creation of an online store. The pandemic made them accelerate that process, which proved to be instrumental in keeping their business going. The entire Brew Shop inventory of beer, wine, craft brew supplies, coffee, and merchandise is all available for purchase through The Brew Shop Online.
Thanks to their quick action and the loyalty of their customers, Julie and Beth have not had to shut down the Brew Shop for a single day during the pandemic. Sales have actually grown.
One thing that worried Julie and Beth in the pandemic’s early days was that they would lose the sense of community they had cultivated since opening in 2016. Gone (for now) are the Friday night craft tastings, Thursday wine club tastings, the wine nights for moms’ groups, and staff parties. But the regulars are still there, albeit outside the shop. Julie and Beth look forward to the day where they can move operations back inside. First on the list will be a party to welcome the new staff members that have joined them over the past ten months – with mandatory masks at the shop, they don’t know the bottoms of everyone’s faces yet!
For the first four years, The Brew Shop community celebrated inside the shop with tastings (craft beer and wine) and treats, such as cupcakes from Bakeshop, but this year it will be slightly different. With operations outside, the celebration will not be as large as years past. That doesn’t mean it won’t be special. They are making it fun with a little friendly competition between owners. Both Julie and Beth have curated their own Birthday Wine Bundle available for pre-sale. The bundles reflect their individual palates – order Julie’s bundle here and Beth’s bundle here. On the brew side, they will have several special mixed packs, reflecting an assortment of small batch, hard to find craft brews. As of this writing, plans are afoot to have some special keg tappings as well. All will be announced on the website this week.
The Brew Shop is located at 2004 Wilson Boulevard in Arlington’s Courthouse neighborhood, just a short walk from the Courthouse metro. They are open to the public six days a week – Tuesday through Sunday (hours vary). Mondays are devoted to placing community orders from their many suppliers. Check The Brew Shop Online for their ever-changing and extensive inventory. Luckily for us, The Brew Shop will be with us for a while – Julie and Beth just signed another five-year lease! And, while there are no concrete plans yet, these brew besties look forward to launching other business ventures together in the future.
TTR Sotheby’s International Realty is regarded as one of the highest-performing real estate firms in the United States. With nine offices and over 450 sales associates across Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, our commitment to professional service, integrity, and community leadership allowed us to capture more than $3.17 Billion in closed sales in 2018, while also serving as one of Washington D.C.’s foremost leaders in corporate philanthropy.
TTR Sotheby’s International Realty
2300 Clarendon Blvd., Suite 200
Arlington, Virginia 22201