David and Brenda Simmons had a clear plan when they opened their winery in northern Bartholomew County in 2000 and feel confident as they embark on the next major step for their business.
They are working toward a Sept. 1 opening date for 450 North Brewing Company, a restaurant and brewpub at Simmons Winery, where they also have a retail store, tasting room and banquet facility.
A construction crew is busy renovating a space that had been used for the winery. It now will have a 600-square-foot brewery area and 500-square-foot dining space with seating for 50.
Large windows overlook a portion of the winery’s 12 acres of grapes and an outdoor seating area will be added for customers to enjoy the country setting along Road 450N between Columbus and Hope.
“This has been at least three years in the works, and it was in our plan when we opened 12 years ago,” said Brenda, as she took a break from preparing the banquet room for a weekend wedding.
David and Brenda would like to open a bed and breakfast to complete their family business.
The couple had talked about opening a restaurant in downtown Columbus and even submitted a proposal to open in The Commons, but their suggestion was not selected.
David and Brenda instead decided to move forward with a restaurant on their current business property and saw the advantages of having all their ventures in one location.
Once the restaurant is open, David said diners might stop by the winery after their meal and purchase a bottle of wine. Customers also might take a look at the banquet facility and gardens available for weddings and other gatherings and decide to book an event.
The couple are not deterred by their off-the-beaten-path location, since they researched other wineries with restaurants that have succeeded even when not in a busy city center. They already regularly get walk-in customers from out of town at the winery’s tasting room.
Simmons Winery is about a 10-mile drive from downtown Columbus and the Interstate 65 exit at Edinburgh, where the winery also has a store at Edinburgh Premium Outlets, open year-round.
“We’ve come to the conclusion, if you have a good product, they will come,” said Brenda.
The winery has proven successful for the couple and now includes production of 27 varieties of wines. They make about 9,000 gallons of wine and sell about 45,000 bottles a year.
The couple said sales at wineries and breweries were not affected by the downturn in the economy in recent years.
“Craft beer industry sales have been strong year after year,” David said.
The brew pub will have craft beers, starting with five varieties: an American pale ale, an India pale ale, wheat beer, amber ale and a stout.
Later they will offer seasonal beers, starting with a pumpkin ale made with pumpkins grown at the winery and sold at its farm market.
The Simmonses, who did their homework studying other wineries before opening their own business, did the same with brew pubs.
David also learned about the beer-brewing process by taking brewing science and technology classes from the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and will have consultants assisting with the start-up phase as they craft their first beers.
“We have some knowledge from making wine since there are similarities between the two,” David said.
He and Brenda also have been busy making sure they had the proper permits and licenses to get started, a somewhat complex process since different permits were required for the winery and brewery.
The restaurant’s menu will center around brick-oven pizzas cooked very quickly on a brick slab at temperatures between 600 and 700 degrees.
Other menu items will include sandwiches, pasta, salads, appetizers and breadsticks.
Although operating a restaurant will be a new challenge for David, who grew up on the farm where the winery is now, and Brenda, a former math teacher and coach, they are enjoying the process.
“It’s all about educating yourself and taking the steps you need to take to be successful,” Brenda said.
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