Regional news: Greeley distillery owner purchases historical downtown building
Syntax Spirits Distillery and Cocktail Bar
For more information about Syntax Spirits Distillery and Cocktail Bar, go to http://www.syntaxspirits.com.
GREELEY — Heather Bean doesn’t know exactly how old the building is, but it’s hers.
And today, she will treasure not only its history but its future.
Bean, co-owner of Syntax Spirits, Greeley’s only distillery, got her hands on the keys to the old Greeley Elevator Building, 700 6th St., complete with its century of Greeley commerce, worn and faded with time, to create a shiny new addition to the city’s core.
She closed on the aging building Friday after what seemed like the pace of an OJ Simpson car chase (for those born after 1994, that’s agonizingly slow).
Syntax Spirits? Where is it, you ask? That’s exactly Bean’s point in buying the new home for her cocktail bar and distillery, which has been on 3rd Street, just east of U.S. 85, and slightly on the wrong side of the tracks since 2010 making homegrown whiskey, rum and vodka.
“It’s not sketchy. It’s just there’s a perception that it’s hard to get to,” Bean said of the building that has been Syntax’s home for the past seven years. “Third Street doesn’t go through 85, so people have trouble finding it, and they don’t view it as walkable from downtown.”
Bean and her business partner Jeff Copeland also wanted to spread their wings a bit. The difference in choice and intention is vast when leasing rather than owning.
“We want to expand things and that means investing more in infrastructure,” Bean said. “That gets harder to do when you’re leasing something. This seems like a good time to buy into downtown. It’s taking off.”
So it was time to take her concept further. She had been looking at the Greeley Elevator building for quite some time. The family that owned the building for decades closed it in February 2014 after 94 years of doing business.
“I’ve always loved that building,” Bean said. “When it came up for sale at first, we had just signed a five-year lease, and I thought, ‘Oh, darn it. I love that building. Then it was still on the market, and I finally called, and we were down to a year (on our lease). I had other distiller friends saying, ‘You should buy a place, do it and commit.’ So with that, I finally made the phone call, and said, ‘Oh, it is an option.’ We could afford it. And the timing was better, and luckily no one got it first.”
That was October, and the deal has stretched out a bit. But Friday finally came, and she became the proud owner of a chunk of Greeley’s history.
“It’s been in the same family for 100 years, so it’s kind of a big deal, and they’re selling it to us, so it’s actually important to us. It was the last operating grain elevator in Greeley, and we used to buy our grain there.
“We’re taking on this big piece of history from someone else’s family, and that’s kind of a big responsibility. We want to do that some justice with the changes were making.”
She plans to dedicate a wall in her new tasting room to that pictorial history.
Remodeling the new building could easily eat up $300,000. The 96ish-year-old building (records are shoddy on the building’s age) for years operated as a feed store after decades of being a grainery. It could use a new roof and some new paint. A sprinkler system and accessibility features will push up the price tag considerably.
“It has a hardwood floor, brick walls, old 1920s light fixtures, so were almost most of the way there,” she said. “So that’s nice.”
But Bean plans to give this old building the treatment. She hopes to jazz it up the only way she knows how, with her funky tastes mixed with a classy vibe. There are a couple of odd spaces in the building which could use some creativity, as well.
“With the funky sterile industrial park thing we have now, we’re kind of limited. Industrial weird is kind of like the only thing this lends itself to,” Bean said of her current building. “I love our industrial weird, but it’s not as appealing to a majority of Greeley that it could be.
“The move will be opportunity to get more of like a 1920s speakeasy, a really classy vibe. We’ll hit a broader section of the population. Combine that with being more in downtown proper and a little less hard to get to and little less scary.”
Her distillery now consists of the distilling room and the cocktail bar and tasting room. She hopes to move the cocktail bar over first, opening by the holidays. Then, she’ll make some decisions on the rest. She may opt to keep her current space for her distilling operation, which will be helpful in a relatively new venture she’s embarked in with helping other distillers concoct their own blends. As a licensed distiller, Bean is in the position to help other budding distillers get into the business. The licensing is the hard part.
“People have their concept for their own liquor brand and they bring it to a distiller and says, ‘can you make this for us?’ ” she said. “And we do that. It’s up to them to sell it. It’s their baby, but we get to basically leverage all of our licensing to bring some more money to the economy.”
She’ll also add a couple new tastes to her own lineup, such as a gin, a bourbon whiskey and some seasonal projects.
The move also will come with a brand change she hopes will add to her brand’s appeal. Customers will see new labeling on the bottles and such, and potentially a jazzed up logo to appeal to a broader buying public. Bean calls it getting away from being so “beery,” or the casual fun labels with unique back stories she started with. It’s time to evolve, she said.
That gets started now, keys in hand, and a future almost fully sketched out.
“This whole grain elevator project is a huge leap, and I feel remarkably supported by the downtown community,” Bean said.
She hopes, at least, Syntax will become another destination in Greeley’s growing downtown mix — being she’s the only distiller in town.
“I hope what we’re doing can help that whole vibe of making downtown Greeley a great place to visit,” she said.
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