New name, menu and beers are coming to Melvin Brewing
Local businessman Gary Pickering announced that he recently purchased a controlling interest in Melvin Brewing’s Bellingham location, and he plans to soon complete a re-brand to separate the brewery from its troubled past.
“I’ve wanted to start a brewery for six or seven years now,” Pickering told The Bellingham Herald. “I’ve been talking to my friends about it for years. We knew that Melvin was having some difficulty in the Bellingham market.”
Pickering, who said he has lived in the area since 1996 and has several businesses in the area highlighted by web design and digital marketing company ClickMonster, said he became a fan of Melvin’s beers after the brewery opened at its 2416 Meridian St. location in December 2017.
He said negotiations to purchase the brewery started near the beginning of this year and were not finalized until July 16. Melvin will continue to own and operate its four other restaurants and breweries in Wyoming, California and Missouri.
“They hadn’t published that they were looking to sell, so I approached them,” Pickering said of the Bellingham purchase. “It was a long, tedious process, but the opportunity ended up falling into place.”
Pickering said the agreement is to keep the Melvin name in the short term for liquor control purposes while he obtains required state licensing. By middle to late August, Pickering is hopeful to re-brand the Bellingham brewery and “fully divest from anything Melvin.”
Separating from a troubled past
As previously reported by The Herald, only months after opening its doors in Bellingham, Melvin found itself in the crosshairs of a social media storm in March 2018, after a Melvin’s employee reportedly sexually harassed an employee at a nearby brewery.
According to a March 9, 2018, Facebook post by Melvin Brewing Bellingham, the incident occurred in November of 2017 and involved an employee from the company’s Wyoming operations.
“This has been dealt with internally with our employees and an official apology was issued to the individual involved,” the post read.
Social media hatred intensified when Melvin’s contact page was found to include the header “Touch Us” and the phrase “Show us on the doll where Melvin Brewing touched you.”
“The Touch Us header was meant to be a silly joke, but in hindsight it was inappropriate, and we want to extend a heartfelt apology,” Melvin said in a March 8, 2018, Facebook post. “Please know that we may be irreverent and like to have a good time, but in this case, we crossed the line.”
Pickering said he was fully aware of Melvin’s reputation in Bellingham, and now that he owns a controlling interest of the brewery, it’s something he hopes to change.
“I’ve been in this community for a long time, and it means a lot to me,” Pickering told The Herald. “When I started considering this, I vetted the idea with my advisers, friends and acquaintances. After talking to them, it’s my belief that after a re-brand, people will not see it as Melvin — it certainly will not be run with Melvin’s way of doing things.
“From what I have seen so far, the community has accepted that. The feedback I have received is 99.9% positive.”
‘Heads held high’
Pickering said he’s already seen customers returning to the brewery now that it is locally owned — he said the portion he didn’t purchase is owned by local individuals who retained their ownership.
“The location is fabulous, the infrastructure is great, the kitchen is set up terrific,” Pickering said. “I’m happy to be able to ease myself into a great setup like this.”
Pickering said his new operation is ready to release its first brew — a Japanese lager — and that it has several other beers brewing that should be released in the next few weeks.
New beers, a new brand and a new attitude are not the only changes Pickering has planned.
Pickering said he brought in a local chef to consult on reworking the menu.
Though the restaurant is no longer open for lunch on weekdays — doors now open at 3 p.m. — Pickering said he hopes to have weekend brunches by the end of August in time for the college and pro football seasons.
He said he’s even looking at an expansion to the brewery.
“We’re excited about the changes we’re making,” Pickering said. “We’re excited to get back to the levels before Melvin’s social troubles.”
Pickering said much of the staff that was working at Melvin before the sale will stay.
“Not all of them were at Melvin’s when the incident occurred,” Pickering said. “Those that I have met have all been great and competent. They had a pretty rough go having to say they worked at Melvin in this community.
“We’re excited to get a new brand and give them a chance walk around with their heads held high.”