© Jerry F. Couch 2019
ATMOSPHERE. It’s that extra “something” you sense and feel immediately upon entering a business. More money won’t buy it. Those who don’t have it can only wish they did.
How did Sugar Hill Brewing Company’s unique atmosphere come about? According to owners Greg and Jennifer Bailey, it’s a fortunate combination of creativity, hard work, and luck. To reduce their startup costs, the Baileys tracked down and purchased good used equipment whenever this could be done without compromise. The finished result is an eclectic mixture of the old and the new, along with contrasting textures, materials, and splashes of happy color pulling it all together. It’s a carefree space that will make you smile.
Years ago there were numerous establishments in St. Paul where beer (some of it homemade) could be purchased. The interior of one of them is pictured below. Patrons of these sometimes-rowdy beer joints that once lined portions of Riverside Drive in the 1970’s would find nothing recognizable at today’s Sugar Hill Brewing Company.
Sugar Hill Brewing Company’s initial menu was developed by Carey Beth Watkins who describes herself as a “foodie.” Carey created moderately-priced selections that are unique yet familiar. When I inquired about the most popular menu items, the answer was (1) deep-fried pimento cheese balls, (2) burgers, and (3) chicken wings.
Greg Bailey attributes the burgers’ popularity to the beef from which they are made – tops in quality and purchased locally from Gent Farms. The steaks are tops, too – aged for 21 days at a temperature of 33 degrees. They are delivered within 24 hours of an order being placed, and are not frozen before cooking.
Approximately 80% of Sugar Hill Brewing Company’s sales are from food and branded souvenir merchandise. Changes to Virginia’s ABC regulations, along with employee training, insurance industry requirements, and the price of drinks work in combination to prevent excessive on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages. As a result, SHBC is a casual, family-oriented restaurant where children enjoy themselves just as much as adults. Young patrons are particularly fond of the 1970’s pinball machines and the Foosball table.
This year, SHBC added a Community Event Room which can be reserved for group functions at no additional charge. It’s an ideal place for birthday parties, club meetings, bridal showers, class reunions, and business meetings.
When asked what’s coming up in 2019, the Baileys told me there will be more street festivals when warmer weather arrives. As you can see in the photo below, these events are crowd-pleasers. There will also be new menu selections and new craft beers.
An important point to remember is that SHBC draws most of its customers from a 30-mile radius of St. Paul. Each time an out-of-area customer dines there, they are putting money into our local economy. Thousands of dollars are generated for the Town of St. Paul each year by the 5% meal taxes that are part of each customer’s bill. That money goes into the town’s general fund, helping provide the maintenance and services that make St. Paul a desirable place to live – and to visit.
Pictured below, Sugar Hill Brewing Company’s ribbon cutting ceremony, September 2, 2016. They’re still going strong and will soon be opening a cidery in Norton. Successful businesses attract more than customers; they attract other new businesses to the community, stimulating positive growth.
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