As part of a first wave of craft breweries in Michigan, Arcadia Ales’ commercial success and the explosive growth of the industry overall was something Founder and CEO Tim Suprise hoped for, but could never have fully foreseen. “You hope for and you plan for growth and development,” Suprise said. “I think very few people, particularly in the craft beer industry would have predicted the growth.” From humble roots in a renovated Battle Creek Chevy dealership, Arcadia now sells its popular Angler’s Ale, Whitsun and other beers in 11 states. They’ve remained true to the British-inspired beers that put them on the map, using a proprietary yeast strain from England, but have also recently added capacity to use new yeast strains that will allow brewers to creatively expand their offerings. Although the Battle Creek location still serves up brews, wood-fired pizzas and BBQ in a very “Cheers”-type setting, brewing operations were moved to a sprawling three-acre riverfront campus in Kalamazoo in 2014. The brewpub there features repurposed wood with a more contemporary, industrial feel with expansive ceilings and garage doors that open up to corn hole and shuffleboard in warmer months.
Despite the differences at both of the brewery’s locations, Suprise said it’s the people – both patrons and staff – who make the company thrive. “In terms of our clientele and our staff, we really work hard at getting diversity, not only into the workforce, but into the patronage,” he said. Taking care of the health and wellbeing of the more than 90 employees who work for Arcadia is a top priority for Suprise. The company pays for workers to go through smoking cessation programs if they desire and offer regular volunteer gardening days to help connect staff back to nature. They also enforce a strict policy designed to curb excessive drinking during off-work hours – employees are allowed two “shiftees”, or complimentary beers, and are cut off after that. “We recognize that what we provide and the product we make has a tendency to be unhealthy, like so many things, if not consumed responsibly,” he said. As part of their health and wellness offerings, Arcadia partners with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to offer insurance to their employees. Suprise’s wife, Mardy, serves as chief financial officer and manages human resources operations for the brewery. Suprise said since they became a Blue Cross customer at the beginning of 2016, his wife’s job has been easier and he doesn’t hear about as many coverage issues. “Sometimes if you’re not hearing much, that’s a good sign,” he said. “I’ve found it to be very easy and a bit more straightforward as far as trying to understand and utilize the benefits of what the health care coverage provides.” Just as meeting the needs of a diverse group of employees at different life stages requires flexibility, so does the brewery’s approach to continued business success and relevance. They’re looking to expand their footprint in unique and innovative ways, such as partnering with Smithfield Foods on a cross-branded bratwurst made with Arcadia’s Whitsun. Local engagement and civic commitment continues to be a priority, with monthly “Drink One Down for Your Town” fundraising events, the creation of Art Hops beer, which helps support the Kalamazoo Art Hop and one percent of all Cheap Date sales, which are donated to the Kalamazoo Parks Foundation on behalf of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, and recent benefits for Big Brothers Big Sisters in Kalamazoo and Habitat for Humanity in Battle Creek. Suprise knows there’s enough demand in the market for the company to keep growing. His strategy is to move forward with an eye on measured and deliberate growth by staying true to the values and beer styles Arcadia was founded on. “We’re okay not being everything to everyone,” he said. Get to know Arcadia through this Pure Brews America video. Head on over to our sister site, A Healthier Michigan, for two recipes featuring Arcadia beers developed by our dietitian Grace Derocha. Go sweet or salty with Porter Rico Dark Chocolate Coconut Truffles or Angler's Ale Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Photos courtesy of Arcadia Ales.