Building buzz: Eastern Market Brewing Co. offers equity in record-breaking investment campaign

Eastern Market Brewing Co. first opened in 2017. Like many a new business that opens in the market, the brewery repurposed a former food processing facility — in this case, an old meat packing plant — and converted it to become something altogether different. But integrating their own business into the market’s long-storied past and vibrant-as-ever present as a center of food-based commerce, whether it’s the butchers that operate here year-round or the farmers that make the trip every Saturday morning, has always been one of the brewery’s goals. It’s been demonstrated in a variety of ways, be it incorporating the building’s history into its current design or shopping for supplies from the vendors here.

And in establishing Eastern Market Brewing Co. in the market, the brewery revived a century-plus tradition that’s been dormant since Stroh’s Brewery Co. shut down their Detroit operations in 1985. When we first spoke to EMBC co-founder and managing partner Dayne Bartscht back in 2017, he made clear that reviving Eastern Market’s brewing tradition was one of the company’s goals.

"There have been at least nine different breweries in Eastern Market over the past 150 years," Bartscht told us at the time of their opening. "It stopped when Stroh's left. We're hoping to bring brewing in the market back to life."

Fast forward to the end of 2022 and Eastern Market Brewing Co. has done just that — and much more. The company has not only built its success on the strength of its beer but its willingness to take risks and innovate. Much of that is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the coronavirus struck just weeks after the opening of their second taproom, Ferndale Project, in 2020.

“I've done a lot of reflecting on the past five years in business and I kind of break it into pre-pandemic and post-pandemic,” Bartscht says today. “Pre-pandemic, I think we had a growth plan, and it was easy to accomplish. We essentially wanted to create a second location, and wanted to grow these brands. When we opened Ferndale Project, that was very strategic and it was the right decision, at the time, to create scale. But then we opened a week or two before the pandemic, and then everything just flew into chaos. And I think that set the tone for innovation for us, and in many ways it was a blessing in disguise.”

The pandemic forced the brewery to come up with new ways to stay open, which begat their beer delivery service. The company launched the vegan bakery Dooped Donuts with their pastry chef, which now has a location downtown with a second to open in Eastern Market in the next year or so. They also purchased downtown coffee shop Ashe Coffee. In 2022, the company opened Lincoln Tap, a brewing facility and taproom in Royal Oak that is the state’s first fully self-service taproom.

Phase three

Most recently, Eastern Market Brewing Co. has been in the news for thinking outside the box yet again. EMBC has launched an investment campaign via the Mainvest platform, crowdfunding $1 million and offering equity in return. Investors can own a piece of Eastern Market Brewing Co. and its family of brands for as low as $500. For their part, EMBC says it plans to distribute at least 50 percent of its profits back to its investors each year. The campaign will invest the $1 million in three major initiatives: growing their self-distribution model, expanding the Lincoln Tap taproom, and expanding their Eastern Market flagship location.

EMBC co-founder Dayne Bartscht makes his pitch in a Mainvest campaign video. (YouTube)“This campaign represents the third phase of our business, where it's investing in the things that we've already built. So we're not looking to open a new tap room or launch another food and beverage-based business. All of the funds will go towards things that we already have,” Bartscht says.

Remarkably, of the more than 450 investment campaigns launched on Mainvest, this campaign from EMBC has become the fastest fundraising campaign in the platform’s history. As of publication, the campaign has raised more than $665,000 by way of 225 investors since its November launch. The brewery has until December 31 to reach their goal, but is trending to reach it by Christmas, if not beforehand.

It’s hard for Bartscht to pin down exactly why the EMBC campaign has performed so well, but he believes it has something to do with the EMBC staff serving as such good ambassadors for the company coupled with being able to purchase equity in the brewery for as low as $500.

“The great thing about this is that it gives access to shares to investors that may not have the means to make larger investments,” Bartscht says. “The minimum investment for us is $500, which is still a lot of money to a lot of people, but it gives an opportunity for someone who believes in us to make a smaller investment and hopefully we'll be able to repay that many times over.”

Back to where it all started

The money raised through the campaign will be reinvested in the company’s self-distribution model, which not only has the brewery making its own beer but selling and distributing it to major grocers like Busch’s and Meijer. Bartscht attests that EMBC is the largest self-distributing brewer in the state.

“Our self-distribution model allows us to own the supply chain. By hand-delivering products, the customer experience we cultivate in our taprooms extends to our retailers. We ensure better quality when compared to our competitors, and we also take home a higher margin,” Pauline Knighton-Prueter, VP of Sales and Marketing, said in a statement. “With this investment, self-distribution will continue to see 50 percent growth year-over-year and further expand the visibility of our beer brands.”
An early rendering of the new-look brewery from Five-Eighths Architecture in Birmingham. (Courtesy of Dayne Bartscht)
The company also plans to expand its seating capacity at Lincoln Tap, which has already proven popular since first opening this fall. The third initiative will see a significant expansion of their flagship taproom in Eastern Market. A currently unused second floor will be activated, and the brewer plans on adding a rooftop patio that overlooks the market. A neighboring building will open as a second location for Dooped Donuts.

“Eastern Market is where it all started. I mean, that's what drove all of us to initiate this business in the first place,” Bartscht says. “The thing I love about Eastern Market is that on a Saturday, when we're packed and you look around the tavern, you get someone from every walk of life. You've got local folks that live near the brewery; you've got folks in the suburbs that are coming into the Eastern Market on the weekend; you've got farmers that are selling their goods and then stopping by for a beer after a long day. And that's really defined who we are and our culture.

“So even as we expanded to these other locations, and introduced these new businesses and new ventures, the culture that we created and started in Eastern Market carries through everything we do.”

Eastern Market Brewing Co. is located at 2515 Riopelle St. in Detroit. Visit Mainvest to view their fundraising campaign.