Some Help With The Research

I went into the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) for my appointment Wednesday with my questions ready and prepared to talk NYS liquor law!


We dove right into talk about the types of licenses but he had NO idea what I was talking about. I was feeling very discouraged and, honestly, sad. I was hoping that I would find the help I needed about these confusing regulations.  But in reality, I had to explain what a bottle shop was. I had to tell him that I was not opening a place to return bottles and cans…

After some more talk about funding and financial statements for the business plan he explains that the SBDC has a partner in Albany that’s only focus is research.  So we compiled specific licensing questions to send to them. phew… that made me feel much better!

  1. What is the minimum food requirement to obtain a “eating place beer” liquor license. How is one obtained.
  2. Are class C liquor licenses not granted by the state anymore? If not, how can one be obtained. Do they have any records of who holds them and is willing to sell.

These questions typically take 2-3 weeks!!!! But after spending a lot of the meeting discussing how I should not move forward with any expenses before I have a clear path for the license, the SBDC advisor said he could expedite the questions! I should have the answers by next week!




Thursday Survey 7/28/16

Alright, I would like to pole the crowd.

We have a pretty good idea of what towns we want to look in, but for those of you familiar with Syracuse; where do you think would be a good location for our bottle shop? 

Below is a picture of the Syracuse area. The black dots are all breweries. The one gold dot in Geddes is Now and Later (An existing bottle shop and tap room combo). I know they may be hard to see but perhaps you can zoom in??

Syracuse Breweries

Below is a picture of central NY region. Same key applies. You’ll see that Rochester has a handful already. It is going to be great to tap into that market here!

Central NY Breweries

Since the finger lakes beer trail is becoming more and more populated it would be in my best interests to at least focus on the west side of Syracuse. But that is just my thought so far.

Let me know what you think.


Small Business Development Center

So I have met with one business owner and contacted a couple others. Next on the list: finish the business plan draft and meet with the Small Business Development Center of Onondaga Community College.

I took a class with them a while back when I was dreaming about opening a wedding venue. I found the class a little helpful, but mostly it opened my eyes to what the center can offer.  I walked away with a business plan template and contact information for later use.  Now, months later and with a slightly different idea, I have set up an appointment. I’m heading in there this morning and here are some things I hope to get out of the meeting:

  • Get the process of obtaining the proper licenses started. This may just mean they provide me with some contact information of lawyers that specialize in this.
  • Provide a starting point for funding options
  • Connect me with a realtor that can help me find the perfect spot.
  • Help revise the business plan

I’ll let you all know how it goes!


Let’s Talk Licenses

What an amazing trip!

Anthony from One Stop Brew Shop is a heck of a guy! We had a lengthy conversation about all aspects of the business on Saturday and he was so honest and candid. It was refreshing to be welcomed with such excitement and positivity. I learned a lot and got answers to so many of the questions I had, but now I have four times as many…

One of the first questions I asked was about licensing. I really want to know what licenses I need to do exactly what I want to do in NY. The answer:  C license.

Here is the kicker: NY State does not grant C licenses anymore. THIS is why there is a huge need for bottle shops in NY.  The state makes it so dang hard to open one!

If I decide that a C license is really the only thing I want to run my business I could find someone with an existing C license and purchase it from them. Anthony said that these used to run at about $20,000 four years ago and about $40,000 two years ago.  If that trend continues, I am looking at $60,000 just to obtain the piece of paper that says I can operate in NY.  That doesn’t include the $30,000 in inventory that I will have to purchase to open doors or the building, or insurance, or industrial refrigerators, or shelving, or… or… or…

(After a brief search online I found a couple for sale for about $150,000.  I think I am going to need some help finding out what is really out there.)

Alright, so what are some other options for New York State licenses:

Beer Eating Place – “For on-premises (consumption on the premises) beer. Food must be prepared and served on the premises to satisfy the SLA. Beer may ALSO be sold for off-premises consumption (take out)” per the State Liquor Authority.

Anthony had a funny story for this one. He said that one of the places in New York fulfilled the food requirements by having a freezer of empanadas in the back and a microwave to cook them in. Obviously these were not going to be big sellers, but it checked the box. Joel and I joked of having a hot dog spinning around in one of those warmers to fulfill this requirement. Not sure how far you can push this license, but it might be worth looking into.

Grocery Beer – “Off-premises beer license. Additionally a “wine product” is defined as a beverage containing wine with added juice, flavoring, water, citric acid, sugar and carbon dioxide, not containing more than six percent alcohol by volume (typically referred to as “wine coolers”)”per the state liquor authority.

This brief description from the State Liquor Authority is pretty vague, but we are under the impression that if you do a grocery beer license you have to dedicate HALF of your space to groceries and can only use HALF for the beer.  This is a huge bummer to me since I feel like that would detract from the beer and the whole feel of the place. I MIGHT entertain this idea if I had two separate rooms and could visually keep them apart. The other thing is, that would just be more for me to manage, maintain, and pay for when it is not what I want to do. Also, I am not sure if we could do growler fills with this license or not.  I am really interested in doing those. It is good profit margin and helps build customer loyalty through the interactions of tastings.

What it boils down to is:

-Can I find someone who would be willing to sell me a C license?

-Am I willing to fork over that kind of capital or should I make one of the other options work for now and keep the C license on the back burner?

Lots to think about.


Beer Culture is the Best Culture

I am not sure if you guys have heard of One Stop Brew Shop in Rochester, NY but it looks amazing! It looks exactly like what we want. They have hundreds of different bottled beer and they even have about a dozen beers on tap to fill growlers with. I reached out to them on 7/18/16 to see if they would be willing to meet with me and answer some questions. I was very up front and told them that I wanted to start a business almost exactly like theirs in Syracuse. I sent the message expecting a response that basically blew me off. Why encourage possible competition right?


This is the beer community.  We love beer. We want to share it with as many people as we can. It just warms my heart that he was so encouraging and willing to meet me this weekend to discuss anything I want to.

Now it is time to brainstorm Questions:

  • What license do they have?
  • Did they hire a lawyer to get their necessary licenses?
  • What can they provide? Bottled? Growler fills? Samples? Kegs?
  • How did they find their vendors?
  • How long was the process from initial planning to opening doors?
  • What is their typical customer like? What do they want? Novice? Experienced?
  • What are their best selling types of beer?
  • How far do customers typically travel to shop with them?
  • Did they previously own a business?
  • Where did they get their funding? Grants? Loans?
  • How much start up costs should I have ready for inventory?
  • When to they anticipate breaking even?
  • What do they do with inventory that doesn’t sell? Drink it? 😛
  • What is their business insurance like? Cost? Coverage? Through who?
  • How do they plan for retirement and pay for health care?
  • How many employees do they have?
  • Does one of the owners work full time on the shop?
  • How many beers do they typically have in stock?
  • Are foreign beers hard to obtain / expensive?
  • Are there any expense that you can now run through the business?
  • How did they find the space they are utilizing?
  • How do they market their business?
  • Do they deal with breweries directly or do they have to go through distributors?
  • What are some of the biggest challenges they have faced since opening the shop and how did they overcome them?
  • Is there anything they would have done differently?

Let me know if you guys think of anything else I could learn from someone living my dream 🙂



Here it is! I have drafted a timeline of some of the major steps I need to take to get going on this business. I am sure this will grow and change as I learn more and progress through the steps. I believe it is a reasonable timeline. But deep down I am hoping that it will be faster because I am just so excited and eager.  The only problem with faster is that we booked a 12 day trip to Vietnam in April.  Don’t want to open the doors and then close for 2 weeks. 

  • Start a blog to show the progress of our dream
    DONE – 7/19/16
  • Meet with at least 2 other bottle shop owners to pick their brains
    July 2016
  • Finish business plan draft
    August 2016
  • Meet with the Small Business Development Center at OCC to review business plan and funding options:
    August 2016
  • Meet with lawyer to go over legal limitations and licenses
    August 2016 (initial meeting)
  • Finalize business plan
  • Make a list of the top 3 town locations
    September 2016
  • Create business logo
    September 2016
  • Create business cards and have them ready for events
    September 2016
  • Meet with a funding source about small business loan
    October 2016 (initial meeting)
  • Search for property / wiggle room for legal and financial situations.
    October – April
  • Attend America On Tap Beer Fest to hand out cards
    November 2016
  • Attend CNY Brewfest to hand out cards and market
    February 2017
  • Begin contacting vendors
    February 2017
  • Start bulking up Media presence
    March 2017
  • Start obtaining inventory
    March 2017
  • Purchase or sign lease for property
    April 2017
    Open Doors
                MAY 2017

Keep me honest folks! 🙂


It’s Not You, It’s Me

I’ve realized that creating this blog is probably more for me than for the readers. I am very excited to share the process but I think more than anything this will hold me accountable. I am putting it in writing. I am sharing it with the world (or at least a handful of people on a public domain). 😛

Right now I am working on a very basic timeline for the major tasks I need to complete. Once I have that drawn up, I can post it here and really be on the hook!

Let’s Get Up to Speed

Hello everyone! My name is Carissa and  I am starting this blog to document the journey my husband and I will be going through to start our own business.  Blogging is very new to me so please bare with me.

Let me give you some background:

Me:  I am a certified public accountant working as a financial analyst at United Technologies Corporation.  What this means is that I tend to list things and categorize and organize items and thoughts rather than elegantly compose them into works of art.  This is something I am working on and I think this blog will help with that. It also means that I love to crunch the numbers and create spreadsheets for everything! And it means that I can’t spell to save my life and grammar is not my strong suit (sorry for those grammar police that may be annoyed by my posts) On the other hand, I have a creative side. I have danced for the last 26 years, I make jewelry, wine charms, hair pieces, paintings and more for my Etsy account and I have just started dabbling in woodworking.


My husband:  Joel is a mental health counselor who does in-home family counseling. He has worked with families that have had problems with child protective services, people who have been told they can either go to counseling or jail and people struggling with addiction and/or personality disorders.  What this means is that he is a wonderful human being who works with people while they are in some of the lowest lows of their lives. He is compassionate and brilliant when it comes to understanding human beings and our behaviors. He also happens to be an excellent writer so maybe we can get some guest entries from him along the way.


Our relationship: Joel and I met in graduate school at SUNY Oswego about 8 years ago and have been married 3 years next week. After graduating we went to work in very different fields. Over the years we have tried very hard to understand the other’s positions but sometimes that can be hard.


Our Goal: One thing that has remained the same in our relationship is this very strong desire to work as a team.  We do this all the time in our personal lives whether it is planning trips, taking care of our amazing fur family or simple housework.  But that just doesn’t seem like enough. Every Monday when I head back to the office I am reminded that I want to work with my husband for a living. I don’t want to just see him in the evenings to catch up on our days and have dinner. I want to spend the days with him. I want to brainstorm, problem solve, and grow with him. I want to share a mutual passion with him that we can also share with others.  And I want to do this while still affording to live.

Our Plan(s): So we dream… I started the dream of owning a wedding venue about 4 or 5 years ago. I wanted an old beautiful barn with a meandering lawn that I could turn into English gardens that lead down to a lake/pond/creek. I was right on target with the barn wedding boom… and then I never did anything. I was too scared. I didn’t want to fail. I didn’t want to risk all the capital. I wasn’t ready. Next idea. We love beer! Let’s start brewing our own beer. It’s cheaper, it’s a lot of fun and we could turn it into a brewery.  Well…. there were a lot of people ahead of us in that market and… it turns out that I am not that good at brewing beer. 🙂 So, we keep thinking. And while we are thinking, we take another trip down to North Carolina to visit our good friends and fellow beer lovers. Each time we go down to visit them we know to bring a couple hundred bucks just for beer.  They live near Durham NC and have the most amazing bottles shops all around them. We find all sorts of new beers from the crazy Kitten Snuggle and Unicorn Tears to local brews from Bond Brothers Beer Company or Fortnight Brewing Company. We all get so excited to try them together, talk about them and rate them on our Untapped app.  We have met new friends who share this excitement and we make an event of it! Each time we say we are going to stock up and bring some home to share with our New York friends and each time we underestimate how much we need to buy and end up with one or two that actually make it home.  Inevitably, at the end of the trip we talk about how sad it is that we don’t have more of that in Syracuse NY.  It is such an effort to find unique beers in our area and everyone is really missing out. DING! Light bulb. THIS IS WHAT WE NEED TO DO! It is a passion that Joel and I share. It is a passion that we want to share with so many other people!! And there is a real need for it in the market in central NY.

What Now: This time I am ready! I have taken a small business course at our local college. I have a burning drive within me to chase this dream. I have a little more capital.  I feel more comfortable with our financial situation.  I am not afraid of failure (OK, maybe a little but I am braver now). I have started the business plan and I have reached out to bottle shops in near by cities for advice (they are not close enough to really compete but close enough to make a day trip and meet up with them to pick their brains). We have a mission statement! IT’S GO TIME!

OK, it really is go time. Back to the business plan.

Thank you for embarking on this journey with me. And I hope you enjoy the ride as much as we will!