In the acquisition age, few craft brewery founders are “selling in.” But that’s exactly the route Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, the founders of Seattle-based Pike Place Brewing, have taken.
The company today announced the sale of a “significant minority” stake to three key employees: Drew Gillespie, Vice President Operations; Patti Baker, Vice President Controller; and Gary Marx, Executive Chef.
Specific terms were not disclosed.
“Collectively they have been at Pike for 45 years and we have long considered them as family in this family owned brewery,” the Finkel’s said in a statement. “Each one has taken on key projects and responsibilities, showing the same commitment to Pike as we do. By formalizing them as owners alongside us we are ensuring that Pike Brewing remains independent and continues to grow organically.”
In a conversation with Brewbound, Charles Finkel, 72, said the decision to sell stemmed from a desire to “ensure the long-term continuance of the company.”
“It is my background to work for companies that have been in business, in several cases, for hundreds of years,” he said. “I don’t plan to do this forever and I don’t plan to live forever. But Rose Ann and I do plan to be around for the foreseeable future. This is an opportunity for us to have our business continue and for us to be involved in it as long as we can be.”
Mr. Finkel said the company considered other succession alternatives, including an employee stock ownership plan, but ultimately determined that taking steps to transfer the business to key employees would help ensure Pike’s legacy.
A press statement with additional details, including notes on the company’s planned expansion that will increase production capabilities to more than 18,000 barrels annually, is included below.
Pike Brewing produced and sold about 12,000 barrels in 2014, Mr. Finkel said.
A letter from Charles and Rose Ann Finkel, Founders and Owners of The Pike Brewing Company:
Today, on the eve of our 26th anniversary, we’re excited to announce that we’re ensuring that Pike Brewing remains an independent and local company by expanding ownership to three key employees plus expanding our footprint right here in Seattle.
We are proud to announce that we’ve expanded ownership of The Pike Brewing Company to include three key and long term employees. Each individual has helped us build the company. They are Drew Gillespie, Vice President Operations; Patti Baker, Vice President Controller; and Gary Marx, Executive Chef. Collectively they have been at Pike for 45 years and we have long considered them as family in this family owned brewery. Each one has taken on key projects and responsibilities, showing the same commitment to Pike as we do. By formalizing them as owners alongside us we are ensuring that Pike Brewing remains independent and continues to grow organically.
Speaking of organic growth, we are also happy to announce that we are expanding our footprint and brewing capacity by moving up. We will occupy an additional 5,500 square feet space directly above The Pike Pub on the atrium level with direct access from First Avenue and The Pike Place Market Atrium. The entire space will be remodeled in the Pike style with antique breweriana, an extension of Pike’s Micro Brewery Museum.
If we could update Germany’s Reinheitsgebot, beer purity law, for these times we’d add independence as a fifth ingredient, right alongside malt, water, hops and yeast. At Pike Brewing, our management team decides what to brew based on quality, taste and sustainability, not dictated from outside sources! When we founded the brewery in 1989 we dared to dream that our creativity and investment would establish a brewing company that would endure in perpetuity. Our role models were the storied European breweries that we represented as sole U.S. agents. Now, 26 years later, that dream has taken another step towards becoming a reality.
When we began our craft beer journey in 1978, the whole of America had only two craft breweries. Currently there are almost 4,000! No matter the landscape, in almost 40 years in beer, we have never been so excited about our company’s momentum and growth potential. We love our work at Pike Brewing, our new partners: Drew, Patti and Gary; and our team of dedicated brewers, bottlers, warehouse people, sales and marketing professionals, cooks, managers, servers and front-of-the-house staff! We are ecstatic about spending the remainder of our careers as a part of this team.
Charles and Rose Ann Finkel
More about Pike Brewing Company’s ownership and building expansion
The Pike Brewing Company was founded in 1989 by craft beer and wine pioneers, Charles and Rose Ann Finkel. Starting with a four barrel copper gravity flow brew house, demand exceeded supply from the very beginning and the brewery moved to its current home in 1996, adding The Pike Pub. In 1997 their larger beer importing company, including the burgeoning brewery, was sold and the Finkels took a sabbatical. Missing their little baby, Charles and Rose Ann re-acquired Pike Brewing in 2006.
Now, 26 years after its founding, Pike Brewing continues to handcraft its beers under the tutelage of Charles and Rose Ann. As hundreds of new brewers have entered the scene and the largest brewers are either offering their own “crafty beers” or buying up independent brewers, Pike Brewing Company is formalizing its commitment to stay independent and local by expanding ownership to include three key employees.
In addition to the Finkel Family, the new owners are Drew Gillespie, Vice President Operations; Patti Baker, Vice President Controller; and Gary Marx, Executive Chef. Drew, who has deep roots in Washington’s Okanagan valley, began as a line-cook in The Pike Pub’s kitchen in 1998 and has held more positions than anyone else at Pike. These include bartender, general manager and currently vice president operations. Patti, born in Oak Park, IL and raised in Stanwood, WA was hired in 2006 as a bookkeeper and office manager. It soon became clear that she had the organizational and financial skills to lead all of Pike Brewing’s finances and human resources. She was promoted to Vice President Controller in January 2015. Chef Gary Marx, from Auburn, WA has been at the helm of The Pike Pub’s kitchen since shortly after it opened in 1996. He has built a culture in Pike’s kitchen that seeks out local and sustainable ingredients for its menu. Under his leadership The Pike Pub has been consistently recognized as a prime dining spot for locals and visitors alike.
Moving up, Pike Brewing will occupy an additional 5,500 square feet space directly above The Pike Pub with a dedicated entrance on First Avenue and direct access from The Pike Place Market. Construction on the expanded space will begin in late 2015 with an estimated completion in the spring of 2016. Current plans for the space include six additional 60-barrel fermenters, a new bright tank and an exciting restaurant concept. This expansion will allow the brewery to meet the primary goal of supplying an ever-increasing demand from customers in the Pacific Northwest at the same time allowing Pike’s talented brewers to introduce more new beers of different styles.
About Pike Brewing Company: The Pike Brewing handcrafts beers of character in our gravity flow, steam powered brewery in Seattle’s historic Pike Place Market neighborhood. Our year-round offerings include Pike Pale Ale, Pike IPA, Naughty Nellie Golden, Space Needle Golden IPA, Kilt Lifter Scotch Ale, Monk’s Uncle Tripel, and XXXXX Extra Stout. Seasonal and limited release offerings include Harlot’s Harvest Pumpkin Ale, Old Bawdy Barley Wine, Auld Acquaintance Holiday Ale, Derby Lager, Saison Houblon, Octopus Ink Black IPA and more. Pike made history in June of 2015 when Pike Locale, Skagit Valley Alba, the first varietal beer was introduced. Pike Locale is a collaboration of Washington State University Bread Lab, local farmers, Skagit Valley Malting Co. and Pike. The Pike Pub is known for delicious local, sustainable and seasonal pub fare paired with Pike and other local, craft drinks. Pike’s world-famous Micro-Brewery Museum illustrates 9,000 years of beer history. Pike Brewing’s annual festivals include Pike Chocofest, benefiting Puget Sound Keepers; Women in Beer, benefiting Planned Parenthood; and Piketoberfest, benefiting The Pike Place Market Foundation. In addition, it is the company’s mission to contribute to local charities throughout the year. The Pike Brewing Company is family and independently owned.