REPOSTED FROM Sandiegobeer
By Brandon Hernàndez
Back in high school, Chris Sarette had a job sweeping out the gargantuan cold box at the headquarters for local distributor, Markstein Beverage Co. His dad worked there by day and instilled an appreciation for the beer industry in his son back at home and on family trips to locales such as the Guinness brewery in Ireland. Sarette followed the local brewing scene on a recreational level while working nearly a decade for San Diego non-profit, Invisible Children, where he ascended to the position of Vice President of Operations. In 2014, after hearing about an up-and-coming operation called Modern Times Beer, he sent a hail-Mary email to firstname.lastname@example.org asking if his skills could be of use. Flush with success and in need of good people, Modern Times brought him on as its eighth full-time employee and he went on to head up operations, construction, human resources, legal and finance on his way to becoming COO. After eight years of radness and wizardry, Sarette is making a move. Brian Jensen, the founder of locally-based bottle-shop chain Bottlecraft, has appointed him as his company’s first-ever CEO. Even while hitting the ground running, Sarette was kind enough to let us pelt him with questions about his new role.
What inspired you to throw your hat in the ring for this opportunity?
To be honest, I don’t think Brian or I knew the opportunity existed until I reached out. I’ve admired what Brian’s built from a distance since the first Bottlecraft store opened. I knew he was among a handful of folks I would reach out to when the time for a new challenge came again. I think the opportunity kind of clicked for both of us pretty quickly as we began talking about what Brian has on his plate at present and what he hopes to accomplish with Bottlecraft and our wine concept, Vino Carta, in the future. That vision, combined with Brian’s reputation in this community, made it an easy decision for me.
How do you feel the vocational skills you’ve honed will transfer to our new role?
For the existing business, I look at my job as optimization. Brian and I have come up with a list of a few dozen things—from technology to logistics and everything in between—that warrant an assessment as to whether they’re still working for the business today. That list will keep me busy for a while, I’m sure. I’m also looking forward to sitting down with each team member early on to get their sense of where opportunities lie in the day-to-day. The other half here, of course, is the growth side, with projects already well underway in Oceanside and San Luis Obispo. Brian and I share a vision for managed growth in the coming years, which I look forward to being a big part of.
Speaking of projects, you have another taking place at Bottlecraft’s Solana Beach location.
We’re working to rebrand our Solana Beach store into Vino Carta #2, which is a major milestone for our more wine-centric brand. Based on the last year at this location, wine is the favored segment, anyway, so we’re excited to round out the wine experience there soon. The goal right now is to accomplish the rebrand by the end of September. We have some staff moving from this location to the new Bottlecraft in Oceanside, so those timing should coincide nicely. We’ll still make sure to showcase some of the best beers we get access to at Solana Beach for our existing customers, but the community can expect a whole new host of wines soon, hand-selected from the team at Vino Carta.
What are the primary opportunities you see for Bottlecraft now and moving forward?
Opportunities abound in that sweet spot where exclusivity, relevance and approachability intersect. Bottlecraft and Vino Carta have access to products that few retailers in the country do. That right there is a major competitive advantage. But times are a’ changing, too, and using the intuition of our buyers combined with data to keep our sets on trend is critically important. Finally, any store stocking hundreds of SKUs (stock keeping units) can be overwhelming to the casual shopper. Continuing to lean on our team and in-house marketing efforts to demystify the world of craft beverages for the new inductee is going to be important. We’ve got some plans on that side that you’ll see roll out in the coming months.
What are your feelings as you depart the manufacturing side of the beer industry?
It’s bittersweet, of course. This has been such a pivotal period of time for craft beer—the explosion of the number of breweries, first and foremost, but also trends like the move from bottles to cans, the rise of the craft lager, the whole nature of proprietary on-premise bars and brewpubs. It is nice to know that staying current in craft beer will absolutely be a part of my new job, as well. The fact that I have the same charge in wine, sake, spirits and more is incredibly exciting, too. I’m as likely to order a gin drink or a natural wine as I am a craft beer, so the opportunity to deep dive across the spectrum of craft beverages is something the insatiable leaner in me really looks forward to.