“We want to create a space that makes our customers feel like they’re coming home.”
We’re so excited for the Sandullo family. They’re in the process of opening not one, but two new Books & Brew locations! Today we chat with Melissa to learn more about this community focused business, and how they went from first time visitors to soon-to-be owners.
Can you tell us a little bit about the Books & Brew concept? It seems like a perfect fit for your family.
“Books and Brews is a place for people without a place. We want to create a space that makes our customers feel like they’re coming home. In addition to delicious craft beers and awesome food, we’ll provide a family friendly environment, where people can feel welcome to spend hours playing games, reading books, and being among friends.”
What drew you to jumping in as franchise owners?
“When we first moved to Indianapolis, I really struggled to find a sense of belonging. Evan had work. The kids had school. And I was a musician without a real network in a new town. I spent my days writing and trying to find bookings in the area and really really missing HOME. I was feeling especially sorry for myself, one night, when Evan encouraged me to find an open mic to play, so I could just get out of the house for a bit. I decided to drop in to the Books and Brews near 96th Street (which we now lovingly refer to as the “mothership”). My plan was to hide out in the back until it was time for me to play. Instead, I was welcomed like an old friend by the staff. I was offered a seat at a table with some lovely strangers who were sharing their pie with me by the end of the night. I was surrounded by all kinds of beautiful souls…poets, bohemians, misfits, business people, athletes, conservatives, liberals, you name it. There was something so deeply special about the atmosphere that I just couldn’t put my finger on. But what really moved me was the sense of belonging. The only requirement to belong was to show up. It wasn’t forced. It was like the air we breathe. Inclusion. A place for everyone. I went home and told my husband I’d found my place. He returned with me the next week and felt the same connection. His words, “This place is so cool. Why is it so cool? I really like it here.” We spent a lot of time, that night, talking about how much we’d love to build a place where everyone belonged. We spoke with Jason Weurfel about franchising, and over the next several months worked toward opening our very own Books and Brews.”
Tell us about your two locations that you’re working on. Where are they located?
“Our original plan was to just open the store on University of Indianapolis’ campus. It’s going to be an incredible location. And we’re really looking forward to our partnership with the University, providing an outlet for students in the creative and performing arts to share their talents; offering catering services and space for University events, and creating a home away from home atmosphere for students, faculty, and everyone in the Carson and University Heights communities. In the midst of planning our March opening, the opportunity for a second location in Broad Ripple fell into our laps. We couldn’t possibly pass on such a great neighborhood, and since the Broad Ripple store has already been outfitted as a restaurant in the past, there’s very little work to be done on the facility, itself. We’ll be located right off the Monon Trail, across from Public Greens. We’re spinning our gears and working as hard as we can to be open by the first week of January!”
What can people expect when they drop by?
“People can expect, always, to belong. Our number one priority is making our customers feel at home. They can expect to walk into a laid-back environment, full of books and games. They may see a table of folks playing Risk, a table of others studying or doing homework. They can expect the BEST craft brews in Indianapolis. We’ll have live music several times a week, including an open mic night on Thursdays. There will be trivia nights and themed parties as well. Depending on the time of day, you can expect to see families having a meal together. There will be plenty of coloring books and crayons for the kids too.”
It seems that the Books & Brew concept is big on community. What do you hope your Books & Brew locations bring to their respective communities?
“As far as community goes, Books and Brews has a way of becoming a community in and of itself. We know that, currently, there’s really not much by way of dining near the University of Indianapolis area. We’re excited to become the neighborhood “watering hole”, and we really expect that Books and Brews will be the community hub once we’re up and running. The Carson/University Heights location, specifically, will have a huge patio that brings the gathering place right outside. I picture it this way: Carson and University Heights are the house. Books and Brews is the kitchen. And our patio is the front porch. Again, we’re there to make people feel at home. As for our Broad Ripple location, the number one question we hear from families in the area is, “Can we bring our kids?” And our answer is always a resounding “YES.” Our kids love Books and Brews. And we are so eager to open the doors to more families. We enjoy taking our family to Books and Brews to play hours worth of board games while we enjoy some of our favorite pressed sandwiches. The Broad Ripple store will also have a large patio/porch seating area, so our customers can enjoy our awesome menu outside. Broad Ripple will be open late on the weekends, with live music on Friday and Saturday nights by local singer/songwriters. Our Saturday stage will be sponsored by Spark Joy Music and offer up some tremendous local and occasional touring talent.”
Will your locations support any local programs or charities?
“We look forward to partnering with various charities once we open. The “mothership” location just completed a fundraiser for Purchased, which is an organization in the fight against human trafficking. A dollar of every beer sold that evening was donated to Purchased. This is a cause near and dear to our hearts, so it will likely be the first organization we support.”
As a musician yourself, we can probably expect that local entertainers will play a big role in your locations. Are there any performances that you’re especially looking forward to? Any “Save the Date” events that we should add to our calendars now?
“Music will definitely play an important role in both of our locations. We don’t have our calendars made just yet, but keep your eyes peeled. Our University location will have a larger stage area, so our plan, in addition to weekly singer/songwriter acts, is to feature a full band once a month.”
Can you share your vision for a perfect evening at one of your Books & Brew locations?
“The perfect evening at our Books and Brews would be spring or summer, with an open patio, doors open to the inside. There is music drifting through the air, lots of laughter. There is table after table of friends and families having snacks and drinks, playing games, visiting, reading books. New friends walk in and are welcomed like old friends. That, in truth, is really an unremarkable night for a Books and Brews. That’s what makes it so great.”
Now that we’re all excited to drop by and hang out, what are the opening dates?
“Broad Ripple is set to open in the first week of January. The Carson and University Heights (UIndy) location is set to open March 17th.”
What else would you like to share about this adventure?
“Be sure to check out the beer menu online by visiting booksnbrews.com to learn more about our five flagship beers: Nancy Brew and the Hoppy Boys (citra-hopped pale ale), Clifford the Big Red Ale (Irish-style, full-bodied), Cream and Punishment (cream ale), Charlie Chocolate Milk Stout, and Shogun Soba Ale (Amber ale with buckwheat). Our locations will offer several guest taps in addition to the flagship brews. We’ll have Coke products as well. We’ll be announcing the pre-sale of our Mug Club memberships in December. Perks of membership include: 22 oz pours for the price of a pint, $2 off growler fills, $1 off six packs, $3 mug fills on Thursdays, your very own handmade ceramic mug, permission to use us as a lending library; leave a book, ta a new one home, 10% off B&B merchandise, and priority access to special release beers. While the beer certainly takes the spotlight, the unsung hero is the food menu. The pressed sandwiches are phenomenal. The naan menu is great. There are plenty of options for kids. And some really fantastic desserts. We just can’t hardly wait to open!”