My thoughts on today’s article in the Metro Times about Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery

It wasn’t my intention to address today’s Metro Times piece about Ypsilanti’s Corner Brewery. But, as several people have now asked me for my thoughts, I feel as though I’m obligated to say something.

First, and probably most importantly, in spite of owning half a share, I know next to nothing about the inner workings of the Corner Brewery. I’ve never seen the books. I’ve never been involved in a single business decision. I’ve never even been behind the bar. So, I’m afraid I can’t shed much light on the money side of things, or what might have been said during the staff meetings noted in the Metro Times article, or why certain decisions may have been made. I can however, share a few things with you.

Before we get into that, though, I should probably tell you how Linette and I came to be involved as investors about a decade ago. (I can remember that Clementine was sleeping in her crib when Matt and Rene came by the house to sign the paperwork, so it must have been about 9 years ago.) I guess I’d heard through the grapevine that Matt and Rene were hoping to open a brewery in Ypsi, and I’d reached out to them to see if I could help in some way. I’d been a fan of their operation in Ann Arbor, and I wanted to see them open something here in Ypsi. Ypsi, I thought, could really use a family-friendly brewery that would be big enough to host the kinds of events I was starting to put together, and I wanted to help make that happen if I could. And, to be honest, I liked their politics. They were big supporters of Howard Dean, and I liked that. (This, of course, was before they threw their support behind Rick Snyder.) So we talked. And, eventually, Linette and I decided to cash in our savings to help make it happen. We thought it was a good gamble, given their success in Ann Arbor, and the fact that Ypsi was desperate for the kind of place that they were wanting to open, so we decided to do it. We weren’t the most savvy of investors, but we liked the vision, and we wanted to help make it happen. And we figured that we’d rather invest our money locally, in Ypsilanti, with people that we trusted, than in the stock market. So we bought half a share, making us the smallest investors in the venture.

And, aside from no longer having any savings, things were good. The Brewery opened, and we started doing things there. Some friends and I held our first Shadow Art Fair there that summer, and it was a huge success. Thousands of people came. And other events followed. We’d apparently been right about Ypsilanti needing a flexible indoor space where people could do interesting things while drinking beer. And it grew. We thought we’d helped make something good happen in our community, and that made us happy. And we figured that, eventually, we’d get back out what we’d put in, plus some percentage of the profits, which we could channel into other things we were passionate about.

The money never came, though. According to the initial projections, if I recall correctly, investors would start to see dividends after about three years… It’s now 2015, however, and we’ve yet to see the first dollar distributed.

In spite of this, no one complained. None of the investors went to the press. No one, to my knowledge, pressured either Matt or Rene. We still loved the Corner, and continued to drink there, host our events there, etc. We figured that, eventually, we’d see something. And we believed Matt and Rene when they said that, in spite of the crowds, and the booming distribution business, the Brewery had yet to turn a profit, as revenue was being funneled back into things like bottling lines, geothermal coolers, and the like… We were resigned to be patient.

Then came the online fundraising campaign at the heart of the Metro Times article. And that’s when things started to fall apart. I began getting calls from other business owners, who knew of my association, asking why Matt and Rene were trying to raise $75,000 online for a new kitchen instead of just building it themselves. I, of course, couldn’t tell them much… While most folks were satisfied with just whispering and texting, though, there was one local bar owner who felt obligated to confront the Greffs head-on. In a late night private email, written after having consumed a few drinks, this business owner told Matt and Rene that he was pissed about getting messages from them, asking for money, while also seeing photos of them drinking on a beach in his Facebook feed. He told them, among other things, that he’d just built his own kitchen, without asking for contributions, and hadn’t taken a real vacation in three years.

And this, from my perspective, is where things began going off the rails… Rene copied this private letter to Facebook. And, as you might expect, her friends came to her defense, calling this business owner names, and noting all of the positive things that Matt and Rene had done for the community. Rene, I’m sure, felt vindicated by the outflowing of support from her friends. What she didn’t see, however, is that, at the same time, this other business owner was getting flooded with texts, all thanking him for having said what he said. (Many of them, by the way, came from employees of the Brewery.)

I wrote to Matt and Rene. It was a long letter, but here’s the gist of it… “You may not like what this other business owner had to say, but you should know that he’s not alone. People are talking, and I’m afraid this campaign may ultimately cost you more than the $75,000 you’re hoping to raise.” I suggested that they remove the letter from Facebook, and offered to set up a meeting between both of them and the other bar owner. They declined. And things, as I predicted, got steadily worse. According to Tom Perkins, who wrote the piece for the Metro Times, one of their employees, shortly after this, reached out to him, asking that he please write about how they, the employees of the Corner Brewery, had been asked to contribute toward the building of the kitchen. And, here we are, several months later, with what someone described to me as, “The worst article ever written about two people not going to prison.”

And it looks really, really bad. The image painted in the Metro Times piece is one of jet-setting owners vacationing around the world, only to stop back in Michigan in order to ask their employees, who are making $9 an hour, to donate back part of their pay so that they might not have to work in an outside kitchen come winter. It’s truly terrible stuff. And one hopes that it isn’t true. Regardless, though, I feel genuinely sorry for everyone involved.

Here’s a clip from the article concerning the Indiegogo campaign, that I think should give you a sense for the tone of the piece, and why it is that Matt and Rene’s friends are so upset today.

brewerymetrotimes

The thing that really bothers me is that this was all so avoidable. If that private letter hadn’t been shared, and if the online fundraising campaign had been quietly suspended, all of this could have been dealt with in private. But, now, the whole thing is going viral, and I’m afraid that it may negatively affect the Corner Brewery, which, in my opinion, is still an incredible asset to our community. And, more importantly, it could affect the staff, who, through all of this, have kept right on going. (If business takes a hit because of this bad press, it’ll be them that suffer the most.)

As I told Tom Perkins when he called me for a comment last November, when all of this began, the thing that really sucks is the thought of what might have been. The Corner Brewery started in such an incredible place. I’ve never seen a local business open with more goodwill. And who’s to say what they could have accomplished if not for all of this stuff that we’re now talking about. I know my quote in the article wasn’t terribly articulate, but that’s what I was getting at. I was trying to say that I hoped all of this didn’t cause that goodwill and positivity to evaporate. And I meant it.

The big takeaway for me in all of this, as someone who would one day like to own his own business, is that transparency matters, and it’s important to be aware of how one’s actions are perceived. I know that Tom Perkins, in his piece, used the term “unethical.” From my perspective, though, it has more to do with tone-deafness than ethics. These trips taken by Matt and Rene, I’m sure, weren’t paid for out of the Corner Brewery till. I suspect they were financed by their venture in India, which is a completely separate, and considerably more profitable, entity. It’s difficult, however, to disentwine the two in one’s mind. It’s hard to see the photo of Matt and Rene drinking in first class, on their way back to Paris, and process it alongside their requests for donations. And I’m sure, from an employee’s perspective, it must be infuriating to work for a business owner who asks you to help raise money for a kitchen, so that you don’t have to continue working in the cold, when said owner has just posted photos from a hot tub at a spa on the Indian coast. Maybe something like this would have happened regardless, but I have to think that it could have played out differently, with a much better result for everyone involved, had more thought been given to communications.

For what it’s worth, I’m still a supporter of the Corner Brewery, and I wish Matt and Rene all the best. As an investor, I’d still like for them to be successful, as I’d like to eventually help my daughter pay for college. More importantly, though, I still think our community needs a space like theirs. Regardless of decisions by management, the place is still important, beautiful and vital. And, thankfully, nothing has been done that cannot be undone. Ypsilanti, if nothing else, is a forgiving community, and this can still be turned around.

UPDATE: Matt Greff just posted the following response to the piece in the Metro Times.

Dear FB friends, many of you have reached out to me already regarding the attack piece in the Metro Times. Obviously we, our staff, friends, and supporters were very sad to read the article today that inaccurately portrayed our Indiegogo campaign and our involvement with staff incentives. It is particularly painful for Rene and I because we have put all of ourselves into our businesses for 20 years and this article does not accurately represent our business philosophy, ethos, or even the facts.

The one true statement in the article is that our investors have not seen a penny since we opened Corner Brewery in 2006. This is something we stress and worry about every day. Rene and I, like our investors, have also not made a penny from Corner Brewery and this is also something we stress and worry about every day. Not only haven’t we made money, we have personally loaned the business $165,000 in order to make improvements (about $60,000 of this was for the kitchen renovation project) and to pay the bills to keep the doors open. This is what small business owners do, we pour everything we have into our business in order to make it work. We’re totally fine doing it but it hurts to have someone without the facts accuse us of building the kitchen on the backs of our employees.

We were accused of “diverting resources to open a brewery in India”. This could not be further from the truth. The brewery in India is a completely separate venture and absolutely no money or other resources were diverted away from the brewpub or the microbrewery to make it happen. Any and all expenses associated with the India project are borne by Rene and I and our business partner in India.

The article also said we pink-slipped our kitchen staff after we met our fundraising goal. Laying off our kitchen staff because there wasn’t going to be any work for them for almost two months made the most sense for them because it allowed them to file for unemployment to continue receiving a paycheck while the kitchen was closed. When we had projects to do at the brewery during that time, kitchen staff was given the option of getting some hours to work on projects or not get the hours and file for unemployment. When the kitchen was set to re-open we offered jobs to all laid off employees who were in good-standing.

Also, although the business grossed $1.7 million dollars the business actually lost over $100,000 in 2014. This is a vast improvement over the over $200,000 losses we showed in 2013. This means that there wasn’t money available to do a $170,000 kitchen improvement so we had to find alternate ways of financing the project. I also want to make it clear that the reason for doing the kitchen improvement was because our staff was working in such harsh conditions. The kitchen grew organically over the years as our very creative kitchen team kept coming up with more food options and unorthodox ways of expanding our kitchen. It became clear during the winter of 2013/2014 that this was not sustainable so we knew we had to find a way to build a “real” kitchen before the winter of 2014/2015.

As it turns out, we completely botched the public relations end of the Indiegogo campaign. This was not a philanthropic “give” to a charity, this campaign was offering really sweet items for sale at really sweet prices to our customers. We clearly did not communicate that very well. As it turns out, this was a very expensive way to finance half of the kitchen project because we will be paying for the $75,000 we raised over the next several years in lost sales from mug club memberships, etc. that our customers took advantage of. And by the way, we will be forever grateful to those who took advantage of the sweet deals to help us raise the money we needed.

And finally, there was never any pressure put on our employees to give money nor were they threatened to coerce others into buying any of the items offered. As always, we knew the campaign would be more successful if it were fun for our staff and if we had some excitement around it. Therefore we offered our staff incentives if they chose to participate and those who took advantage of it had a great time and were very happy with their involvement.

I hope some of you who are skeptical will read this and at least consider the facts that were omitted from the article. We will continue to focus on our customers, employees, and community like we always have and hope to continue to see all of your smiling faces come through the doors. Since our businesses are so very personal to us, we also encourage you to reach out to us personally if you have thoughts, suggestions, and criticisms. Thank you all so much for 20 amazing years and, as scary as it is to say it, we look forward to 20 more.

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160 Comments

  1. Posted February 18, 2015 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    One more thing. I’ve gotten a few notes from friends of the Greffs, angry with me for “being a part” of Metro Time piece. For what it’s worth, I did not write the article. I did not see a draft. I did not have anything to do with it. I was called by a reporter who knew that I was an investor, and I answered a few questions. He asked if I was an investor. And he asked if I’d ever been paid. I answered truthfully to both questions. I’m not sure what Matt and Rene’s friends would have had me tell him, but I told him the truth. I also suggested that he call Matt and Rene and talk with them, which he apparently did.

  2. Posted February 18, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    As for my quote in the Metro Times piece, I don’t think it was in any way inflammatory or unfair. I was asked what I thought about he kitchen fundraising campaign, and I said that I hoped the fallout wouldn’t cause the goodwill that people in the community have for the Corner Brewery to evaporate. And I meant that. I did not weigh in on the fundraising campaign itself. I merely said that I hoped the fallout wouldn’t hurt the employees of the Brewery, many of whom I like quite a bit.

  3. Posted February 18, 2015 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    One last thing. As I mentioned in my post, I tried to get involved as this was going down and stop it. I wanted to diffuse this before it became a thing. Unfortunately, my efforts didn’t work… This is a bad thing for the Brewery, the Greffs, and Ypsilanti… and I’m convinced that it didn’t have to happen.

  4. Posted February 18, 2015 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

    This whole thing is incredibly upsetting. I know very little about the restaurant/bar business (in fact, it was on this very website where Jean Henry taught me that something like a 3% return is considered ginormously successful…I had no idea!), and I think it’s hard to understand that something that is always busy can NOT be making hand over fist shittons of money. But for Jean’s kind explanation, I would probably also be questioning things. (:raises the roof for Jean:)

    Something that I think is important to note…the Corner has retained a lot of its staff over the years. This can’t be easy, given the transient nature of both our region and the industry. Several of those employees have gone out of their way (on FB and elsewhere) to praise their employers. Let me just say that I have had probably a dozen employers in my adult life and I can count on one finger the number of employers I would have anything good to say about. So that does tell me something.

    It also bothers me that we are spending time beating up on the Corner when so many corporations are the actual anal cysts of society. (I get that it’s local and we feel like we can actually have a say, but I’m getting the same feeling that I did when there was that attempted boycott of the food co-op a few years ago).

    I guess I am wondering the impetus behind this article. Did the disgruntled kitchen worker reach out to the author? Did an investor? Did the “private” FB letter touch things off? I kind of have the “if you don’t like it, don’t donate” attitude towards Kickstarters (like the guy making potato salad? Uh, no. You ain’t need TeacherPatti’s five dollars). I also feel like Rene has explained the reasons and the funding situation over and over and over and over again but the situation continues to make people’s asses glow like Bozo the Clown’s nose…ARGH.

    I will admit that I am extremely biased towards both the Greffs and the Corner. (For the love of almighty merciful God, there is a sandwich there named after me!) So I might not be the best person to offer anything even remotely resembling impartiality….

  5. Posted February 18, 2015 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    My sense, as I said in the post, is that it all spiraled out of control after Rene posted the letter to Facebook. Before that, there was a lot of whispering and complaining about the campaign, but there was nothing overt. But, when she shared that, it seemed like everything came to the surface. The business owner in question, when I tried to broker some kind of understanding between parties, showed me his phone and the messages that he was receiving. (Ypsi, I think, is too small for any more feuds, and I wanted to end it.) Anyway, I suspect that’s when an employee, or a group of employees, reached out to Perkins, who also writes for the Ann Arbor News. And then he called me. I don’t know if he already knew that I was an investor, or if he found that out on LinkeIn, or if he just saw my name at the top of “the wall of foam.” At any rate, he contacted me and I answered his questions.

  6. Tony
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    Let’s hope that all they’re guilty of is poor judgment in taking a private email and posting it on Facebook. You’re pretty much announcing to the other person that: a) I’m burning a bridge and b) I’m going to put all the laundry in public.

    There is that expression that “those who live in glass houses should not cast stones.” The problem is we all live in glass houses, so it’s a bad idea to throw stones, especially in public.

    I love Corner and on a trip back to visit, I hope to down a few pints of Sacred Cow. I really hope all this doesn’t impact the business enough where something irreversible happens.

  7. Bob
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

    In this story, as with the Rick Snyder flap, Rene’s chief defense seems to be “we have never taken a paycheck from the brewery.” I’ve always wondered what they live on. How do I manage that situation? How can I jet around the world in first class, sipping drinks while not drawing funds from my business? It’s a pretty scummy story, if true.

  8. Posted February 18, 2015 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    In defense of the Greffs, their three businesses are different, independent entities, and it’s quite possible that they could live off of the two more profitable enterprises.

  9. Lisa
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

    Argh! This whole thing reminds me of one of the reasons why I am a lot more cynical about recommending that people step out front and do innovative things in their businesses. I used to be a lot more in favor of that, until I saw what kind of attacks they faced. Because if you do something different, if you attract attention, people WILL attack you. This is one of the sad thing about this world that I so so wish would change. It is not that we shouldn’t question the decisions of business owners whose businesses we support – we should – but there is a way to do it that is respectful and purposeful. It sounds as if that is exactly what Mark did. That’s what we should all do.

    One of the things we owe each other as a community is above ground, open and honest communication. And I speak from experience – I have had people (some of whom read this blog) try to sabotage an organization I care about, without talking to me and without being open and above board. That is something that is just about impossible to deal with as a business or nonprofit, and it needs to stop. I see that story replicated here. I understand that we are all cynical about organizations and their real goals. But that is one of the beauties of locally owned independent businesses – you can actually TALK to the owners and hear /read what they have to say in return, and hear from their employees. If I would ask anything of the people reading here, it is that they stop and take a breath and let this all play out before they make a judgment. We are all human, and some of those humans run amazing, but yet not perfect, businesses.

  10. Anonymous
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 9:06 pm | Permalink

    It’s also possible, Mark, that while they don’t receive “paychecks” they are compensated in other ways. Does the Corner, for instance, pay to license the “Arbor Brewing” name from the Greffs? Do they own the building that the Corner Brewery is in? If so, does the business pay them rent? You might want to consider hiring a forensic accountant.

  11. Lynne
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think it is unethical for a business to crowd fund for improvements. It is a way to put a price on community good will, which does nothing but give businesses an incentive to do things that make people in the community like them. The Greffs are amazing at this. Truly.

    I also don’t think that it is unethical for them to pay their kitchen staff a wage based on the market wage in the area. It is a reality in the restaurant business that if your competition gets too much of an advantage over you, you are going down. If you are paying your workers $15/hr and everyone else is paying $9, there is a good chance you are going to go out of business. That would not be good for those employees at all! This is one reason why I favor a high minimum wage.

    I do, however, feel that it was *not* OK for them to ask their employees to contribute to the crowdfunding thing. I am sure it was not their intention to pressure their staff. However, the employee-employer relationship is inherently unequal in most cases. They have so much more power that just asking really does put pressure on the employees. And the timing of the layoffs with the decadence of the trip was just in bad taste. I don’t begrudge them their trip, but it would have been in much better taste to share the photos with close friends instead of with everyone. I mean, really? They are going to lay people off, putting them in a bad financial situation of the sort where they’re hoping they can get on food stamps, and then they are going to share pictures of a trip that probably costs many times more than the annual wage the employee used to have? What were they thinking? They might have well as dressed as French Royalty and screamed, “Let them eat cake!” It is completely understandable that people are angry with them.

    My advice to them would be to apologize to the employees and promise never to do it again.

  12. Bob
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    You gotta be a true believer to continue to defend them at this point. I have always been amazed at how eager people are to defend them. If I’d invested money and had to look at their stupid bloody Mary photos, I would be fucking pissed.

  13. Kim
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    Are there any Corner employees who would like to weigh in on this? Should we believe this article or not?

  14. Posted February 18, 2015 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    The truly tragic thing about all of this is that it’s kept me from writing about the UM student who penned an editorial in which she claims to be middle class even though her parents make over $250,000 a year.

  15. Posted February 18, 2015 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

    My thoughts:
    They should apologize and change their behavior.

  16. Pat
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

    My thoughts:
    They should transition to open book finance so that employees and investors can see how money is spent.

  17. Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Pat, great suggestion for a behavior change. Anyone have other suggestions?

  18. stupid hick
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    How disappointing. I hope the part about shaking down staff for donations is untrue. I hope Mark eventually gets something back. Had I been asked, I would have invested or lent them $10k in an instant, even after their unseemly crowd funding campaign. Now I have to wonder if they’re on the verge of going out of business.

  19. anonymous
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

    I don’t know what kind of management structure they have, or how the compensate employees, but, if they don’t already, they could institute profit sharing and set up a board with representatives from the staff and their investors.

  20. js
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Permalink

    Whatta coincidence — My position at my regular gig just ran out of funding and I do have experience in crisis communication! Sounds like the Greffs could use a good crisis communication consultant (I’ll give ’em this one for free: Getting your backs up is only worthwhile if you’re 100% certain you’re in the right, otherwise it just delays getting past the crisis). The Corner’s been a net good for Ypsi, but “Romeny moment” is a sharp point — oblivious to the point of self-injury.

    Good will isn’t infinite. I wonder what the Greff’s will have to do to replenish the well, if it’s possible at all.

  21. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    I do find it unethical to not return money to investors on the premise that the corner is a separate business–separate from their other profitable businesses. But I guess I am not super business savy…

  22. dragon
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    A bold plan drawn up by assholes to screw morons. News at 11

  23. Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:13 pm | Permalink

    I wish they had organic beer. I am allergic to life-killing chemicals.

  24. Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:15 pm | Permalink

    And I don’t know what the talk of a boycott of the food co-op was about a few years ago, but I sure hope that doesn’t ever happen or our access to healthy food will drastically decrease. Their food keeps me alive. The only other place in town to get an abundance of organic food is The Farmer’s Markets/Growing Hope. (and we are about to have YEAR ROUND farmer’s markets in Ypsi! Yeehaw!)

  25. Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:17 pm | Permalink

    Alcohol is a life killing chemical, btw.

  26. Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

    Mark told me once about his odd relationship with the Corner.

    Though I have been to the Corner out of necessity on occasion, in general I refuse to support any of the Gref’s businesses.

    Seemed like a really fucked up way to do business.

  27. Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:23 pm | Permalink

    “I think it’s hard to understand that something that is always busy can NOT be making hand over fist shittons of money. ”

    Easy, overhead is high and customers don’t want to pay more than market price.

    3-5% is pretty good for a small business.

    The Greff’s are probably guilty of thinking that their money losing businesses are charity efforts and expect that customers will pony up cash if it is important to them. If this is their attitude, the business won’t last.

  28. James Williams
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:42 am | Permalink

    Mark- have you looked at the company’s books? You are a shareholder, and have a right to do so. I am also not sure how they were able to sell shares to a non-accredited investor.

  29. James Williams
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:54 am | Permalink

    Also, did they really promise to triple your money in 13 years? That is about a 9% rate of return, which is somewhat unlikely.

  30. Posted February 19, 2015 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    I don’t know the Greffs at all, I don’t know what other businesses they are in or how the whole thing is structured or what-have-you, and I don’t know much of anything about running a small to medium-sized business. I don’t even know anything about this stuff being posted on Facebook. But I do know two things.

    First, while my initial reaction to the crowd funding campaign (I had heard about that earlier for some reason) was kind of “well, if people want to give money to an already successful business, I guess that’s their right,” my take now is it just sort of feels like a con job. I mean, instead of in the spirit of contribute some money to an enterprise so that it can grow and “pay it forward,” so to speak, it feels a lot like the whole “look how local and community-oriented we are” and “look how we’re engaging in a crowd funding campaign” and all of that, this article makes me think now that the local angle is just callous marketing and the crowd funding is just a con to get interest-free money from gullible customers.

    And BTW, about that crowd funding thing: the argument I recall from the Greffs and that I’m reading now says they tried the crowd funding campaign because they couldn’t get a loan from a bank. But for a business the size of ABC– the metrotimes article said they grossed $1.7 million in 2013– isn’t it just standard practice to have a line of credit relationship with a bank? If they are rolling in dough from their other businesses, couldn’t they have used one of those businesses to borrow money and/or to make a loan to ABC?

    Second, there are a lot of EMU events at The Corner. The union has/did meet there sometimes, my department has had functions there, I’ve met with my own students and with other groups there, etc., etc. It’s a great space for that sort of thing. But I have to say that until the Greffs clear this all up somehow, I don’t think I’ll be attending those kinds of events anymore. And the Wurst Bar has a better selection of beer and a better food, too.

  31. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Crowd sourcing, failing to return any money invested, asking employees for money, it sounds like a charity. Maybe the business owners are tired of it? Maybe the business owner’s reckless and tone deaf actions are a way of self sabotage–to help quicken the process of getting out of The Corner? Perhaps the self sabotage went too far? Just wild speculation on my part…

    In my opinion, a “family friendly” bar is not something that any community needs anyway. I always thought the beer conneseur movement, combined with the family friendly atmosphere is just an attempt to normalize the unhealthy habit (addiction) of drinking alcohol. I know that sounds prudish but these people are not curing cancer; they are offering people the opportunity to engage in an unhealthy habit.

  32. Sara
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    As a transplant to Ypsilanti, Corner is arguably one of the spaces that made me fall in love with this town. From late nights in the beer garden in the summertime to DIYpsi, it’s a brewery and community space unlike any countless others I have seen.

    I will continue to go to Corner. I will not make judgments of the Greffs’ character because I don’t know then personally. The crowdfunding campaign made me skeptical. But they really could have saved themselves a boatload of trouble by holding their tongue, or being a little more careful in considering what content they choose to make public on their social networks.. I have never seen a story of a small business owner striking back against negative commentary ending well.

    I hope they’ve learned something of communications and transparency out of this. In the meantime, I am looking forward to my next Ypsi Gypsy pint.

  33. Bob
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    “Family-friendly bar” is indeed creepy. I totally agree. The whole craft beer craze in general is sorta off the rails. At the end of the day, my biggest knock on AB beer is just that it’s mostly mediocre. As is much craft beer. Some, like Short’s, seem to be inspired but I’d mostly rather have a cheap, ice-cold longneck. Preferably in a scuzzy joint where I can get a shot if I need it. A bar should be a bar.

  34. Tommy
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    The Greff’s are in serious need of a good PR firm. That letter of response from Mr. Greff is condescending bullshit at best. Something tells me that maybe the Greffs aren’t being completely open and up front about their beloved ‘charity case’. Nine years in business and your company is losing money hand over fist? Have made personal loans of 165K to keep the doors open?

    Time to cut your loses and get the fuck out of town if you ask me. It’s ok beer in a building with some tables and chairs.

    It’s not personal, it’s business.

  35. I Sit at the Bar
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    The Metro Times piece is what we in the media would call a hit piece. It is not balanced. When Perkins says that workers were “pink-slipped” without noting that they’d been hired back, it shows clear bias against Matt and Rene. My guess, having had dealings with Rene in the past, is that she was partially to blame for this. What started as a simple article on crowd funding, I’m guessing, escalated as Perkins and Greff started butting heads, but that’s just a guess.

    As for Matt’s contention that resources were not diverted to India, I think it might be more precise to say that “financial resources” were not diverted to India. One of their Ypsilanti brewers was given a job at the brewery in India, and I have no doubt that much of Matt and Rene’s time has been spent there as well. From what I hear from people at the Ypsilanti operation, they’re lucky if they see Matt and Rene a few days a month.

  36. kjc
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:17 am | Permalink

    “I do find it unethical to not return money to investors on the premise that the corner is a separate business–separate from their other profitable businesses.”

    uh exactly. i don’t get anyone defending them either. just cuz you like the space and like drinking there and they’re your pals? please. that letter from Matt Greff is pathetic and the victimization mindset is appalling. they have obviously learned nothing.

  37. maryd
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    If we were to stop drinking at places in Ypsi that have had questionable politics/ethical moments…we’d all have to stay home…

  38. Ypsiosauras Rex
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    To the investors:
    When you discover you are riding a dead horse it’s best to dismount.

    This post/article makes me not want to give them any more business.

  39. kjc
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    and someone wanna say who the business owner is who wrote to them, for those of us not on FB? so i can go there and give that guy my business?

    this reminds me of the people at crazy wisdom, who also take expensive vacations and live a high life while paying their employees poorly. that one has been going on forever too. and people love that store, and the spiritual values it supposedly represents (bahaha) without ever paying attention to how they do business. ann arbor has countless examples of this sort of thing no doubt. peter has made the point many times. small businesses that profit off the backs of their employees don’t deserve to survive. even if they look pretty and name a burger after you.

  40. Anonymous
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    The Greffs have a lot of friends who live their lives vicariously through them. They post photos of themselves drinking martinis while doing Yoga in Europe and their friends line up to tell them how awesome they are. They’ve become celebrities among a very small group of Michigan Democrats, and I think it’s clouded their judgement. I don’t doubt that they are decent people. I think, however, that the celebrity has gone to their heads.

  41. idea man
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    You would have had 100x more “likes” if you’d written about the poor University of Michigan student whose family only makes $250,000 and doesn’t even have a pool.

  42. VH
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    speaking of shady practices, how many of these aliases belong to mark?

  43. Ted the Head
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    the bar owner who wrote the letter owns the Wurst Bar. If you really want to know are at least have a ballpark on how much ABC Ann Arbor or the corner brewery does go to the state of Michigan website and figure out that through their sales tax that they pay. It is public knowledge.

  44. Bob
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I’m sure there are many, uglier skeletons in the closets of other family bar owners. I don’t recall any FFrench family begging funds or representing themselves as some bullshit, socially aware, alternative business model. How the fuck do you start a new business in India, as your local business bleeds upwards of 100k a year, for several years? And let’s let the taxpayers pick up our employees unemployment benefits, while we strategically close temporarily. Matt’s FB defense is ridiculous. They are ridiculous. I hope local reporter’s really dig in and follow up on this story. I would love to see an investigation of the operation in India.

  45. Robert Davis
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    How are the Greffs really?

  46. Robert Davis
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:06 am | Permalink

    And WHO are they truly?

  47. Tommy
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    A low blow, VH. If anything, Mark is a pretty honest broker when it comes to meandering through subjects that are close to him. The fact that he reached out to the Greffs and others to try to prevent this misstep from becoming an unmitigated disaster (which it has) should speak to his character.

  48. Bob
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    And Mark, I don’t personally doubt your honesty or best intentions. I’m sure this is personally awful to have to address. I’ve been confrontational on this topic over the years. I have always been completely mystified by your defense of them. It has largely kept me away from the website since the Rick Snyder story broke. But I commend your honesty. I hope you get your money back.

  49. Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Shit. I didn’t know that about Crazy Wisdom. So, okay, what other small businesses do things that we disagree with? And we know we don’t like shitty corporate chain stores, right? So what does that leave us?

    Btw, I agree that family friendly and bar are two words that go together like Pixie Stix and milk. But that’s another argument that always just gets me in trouble with my friends who are parents.

    For people who are now deadset against going to the CB (one my favorite places on earth), what would it take for the Greffs to win back your support? Or are we past that point?

  50. Dan
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Bob brings up a great point. Matt’s defense for laying off employees was so that the tax payers could provide them unemployment benefits? Really? Asking for another handout was his defense?

  51. Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I hate that all this has happened. I’m mad at the Greff’s for their actions and at Tom for his story. Most of all I am angry that the general public has been included in this argument on Facebook and elsewhere. There is lots of blame to go around, but I am glad that the Corner is in Ypsilanti, and I like that it is a family-friendly gathering space that serves local beer. Greff’s: more transparency and less whining please.

  52. Tommy
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Patti – What would it take for the Greffs to win back your support? That is a very good question. For many, I am afraid the bridge is burned. I don’t think it is about – as you put it – businesses that do things that we disagree with.

    It’s about the perception of rich fuckers who claim poverty and publicly whine about all they have sacrificed for the good of the community, about business owners who chose costly solar and geothermal improvements when a safe working environment for their employees was perhaps a greater need/priority, about a company who brings in almost 2 million dollars but can’t find a way to a) make money or b) make basic improvements that could easily have been done without shutting people out of their jobs for a few months, etc., etc.

    If I was a share holder, I would tell the owners to shut the fuck up for a while and try to establish a business model for a local pub that is sustainable

  53. Liz DMG
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    Unemployment is mostly paid by corporate taxpayers, not individuals. It’s mostly funded by employer contributions.

  54. Dan
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Liz, those are called taxpayers

  55. concerned
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    Maybe the investors should put up a “Go Fund Me”page hire a forensic accountant to dig a little deeper into this. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’d be interested in donating a few dollars to investigate this “math”.

  56. Aaron B.
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    Liz, “corporate taxpayers” are people too… thanks to Citizens United at least.

  57. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    I’ve watched this story unfold with a comforting sense of schadenfreude as Corner Brewery’s owners have quite publically finally had their card pulled for years of anecdotally quite well known questionable business ethics that have been quite apparent to anyone watching them locally over the years who knows any former employees. I’ll forget, for the moment, that they are Democratic party boosters who also, as was revealed publically, donated to Gov. Snyder’s initial gubernatorial campaign, but I think there’s a succinct metaphor for them in general there: what we have here is businesspersons that attempt to play two sides across the middle regularly in pursuit of their own personal enrichment. The two sides, of course, are presenting a public image as community boosters with a eco-responsibility and a progressive values, who, nonetheless, have an underlying profit motive at base, which allows them to step over the bodies of their underpaid workers even as they install solar panels on their brewery. Anecdotally, I know from many friends over the years that Rene Greff is a horrid martinet to work for, and notoriously cheap. My vision of Matt is less clear, but it notable that they still frequently present themselves as separate owners of two distinct companies (for tax purposes no doubt) when in effect they are husband and wife team. All of this acceptable, and not different, really, than the business practices of many small and large busineses locally and at large (Whole Foods, who also plays two sides across the middle in presently a progressive image with profit at its base, is a notable large co, Zingerman’s is a small local example who is also value based, but perhaps more ethical). Where things are different in this case, however, is that the Greff’s have probably built up a nascent sense of “ill will” that comes across loud and clear in the community reaction to the Metro Times “attack piece”. I’m unclear why this is, but anecdotally over the years, it’s been apparent that they’ve in many instances been vindictive towards community members critical of their enterprise, and particularly vindicative towards employees that have expressed dissent over the years. This began with their first brewer, Doug, (when their beer was actually palatable) being run out of town on a rail, and has continued over the years with many many ABC staff, many community favorites, being run out of town as well, usually by Rene. As such, I can’t help but feel the chickens have come home to roost with ol’ ABC, and maybe they can grow as a company and embrace some of the values they profess to embrace, to recover from this setback. I’m not counting on it, however, given the timbre of their response to the MT piece. That said, I’d like to sue as their beer has made me sick numerous times…I don’t know what they put in that crap, but it makes me sicker than a dog after only one beer…without fail.

  58. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    One more thing…Anyone want to bet that the Corner won’t be a good place to pick up the week’s copy of Metro Times anymore? It’s getting hard to find in Ypsi, lately…I blame that merger with Real Detroit, or perhaps the snow… but their distribution is falling flat. I can’t even get it at the bin at the corner near Aubree’s lately.

  59. Brian
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Hey, everyone- it’s Brian and I work at corner. I know many of the voices here from over the years, pouring your fill. Just a few points I want to make as someone who has worked there for 5 years and can count on one hand how many days I didn’t like my work.

    There is a saying, and I’m sure you’ve heard it applied elsewhere, “if you want to make a million dollars with a brewery, start with a million dollars”.

    We did not start with a million dollars.
    Breweries have high overhead.
    Shit breaks.
    Shits expensive.
    Tanks, bottling lines, kegs, bulk ingredients don’t come out of your petty cash. We are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars. How easy do you think it is for a mom and pop that’s growing to balance all of that? That’s the cost of growing, though. It takes money- money which unfortunately this article paints to be squandered and abused when they should have been taking care of their own. I think Mark is more or less on track with the other entities supporting-and they aren’t rich kids, they share a Ford Focus.

    It is in my opinion that I have the best job in Ypsilanti. That is the truth. Every one of and everything about my employers and employees… I have only good things to say. We are a small staff, and we are a family. Since I was at the staff meeting at Corner I can say to you no one was pressured, forced, coerced, threatened or anything along those lines. Some people gave what wanted, and others did not. That was it. No one got judgy and certainly no one was left without a job. It is my personal belief that the staffer who contacted Mr. Perkins was unhappy after not being brought back to the kitchen based on a general lack of performance, morale, and lack of respect for policies. This being said he went on to tell a story.

    The crowd funding had poor PR.
    People hear crowd funding and think, what the shit? You’re an established company asking for a handout? No way.

    If you look at the indigogo campaign or participated it was more of a multi tier version of what we do with the mug club. Jug clubs, mug clubs, food clubs, room rentals, whole sour cask options. Those who donated were able to express their value because they already go to business and can actively use those perks for years to come say instead of getting a one time product for helping start a small biz. If you look at it from that perspective which I believe was the intent then there are definitely some pretty sweet deals in there.

    I hope you have come by to check out the new kitchen and menu, it’s a vast improvement across the board from the old corner ypsi kitchen and menu. It’s a better work environment for everyone and the food is far better. Aside from the single non-returning layoff, everyone in the kitchens original staff has stayed and we have hired four more. Jobs are a good thing, right?

    In the end, no matter how it looks it was good for those who participated, it’s good for the community, and it’s good for the employees who are the ones who choose to be there everyday.

    My hope is that this article does not mar the image or people of those who work there. We are looking forward to an awesome 2015, and I just want to keep doing my thing. It truly would impact a lot of good people if our Community divided it support to a great local business over this.

    Cheers.

  60. Michelle
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    In response to Steve:

    They have to be separate because Matt cannot have two liquor licenses in his name.

  61. Kerri
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    I can’t believe that people are buying into this and not recognizing it as a tabloid smear clickbait piece of trash. A hit piece based on one anonymous source. I sincerely hope you don’t apply the same low standards to all of the news you consume.

  62. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Michelle, yes, I aware of that, and it also had something to do with the bottling operation at CB when they wanted to distribute sixers as well.

  63. Local
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

    If you told me, a 9$ an hr kitchen staff, to collect unemployment, while you asked for funds from the community. I would be extremely disappointed and disgusted with these over celebritized bull shit owners. Other than creating a venue, I would be interested in knowing what else they do for ypsi. For the non drinking community, this is just another poorly run business. Like most restaurants. Who know they can fire and re hire as much as they want, And charge way to much for food that came from GFS.

  64. kjc
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    ” Jobs are a good thing, right?”

    we know you wanna keep yours Brian. i guess anyone who worked for the Corner and didn’t have a good experience was just lying. but saying so wouldn’t be an “attack” right? or a “hit piece”?

    i can’t believe anyone expects us to believe “tabloid smear clickbait piece of trash”. if you want to judge lack of awareness and low standards, look in the mirror.

  65. Kerri
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Well said, Brian!

  66. Kerri
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    Looking in the mirror would be a better use of my time than reading the comments on this blog! Have fun, kids.

  67. Bob
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    Tabloid smear clickbait piece of trash hitpiece. Oh brother. There is more than one source quoted, for starters. Both Brian and Matt himself seem to confirm other facts from the story. You can call it one-sided, maybe it is. I don’t see anyone really disputing the gist of the story though. I too am a loyal friend, for my old friends but at some point I will admit when they are assholes, and move along.

  68. K
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    It might be time for them to stop with world travel and put in some time at the brewery. That’s what would anger me as an investor. When this business is losing money, why would they agree to divert their attention to India? If I were an investor I’d tell them to get back to Ypsilanti.

  69. rik
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    to quote The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty:
    “FUCK THE BOSSES.”

  70. Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    The update that Mark posted from the Greffs answers some questions, but it raises other questions for me. As I said before, I’m no businessman, but I don’t understand how a business the size of ABC can lose that much money in a year and remain in business. And we’re talking about one business here, right? Or are they saying “we made a ton of money at the brewpub in Ann Arbor but lost money in Ypsilanti?” If that’s the case, then a) you didn’t really lose money overall, and/or b) maybe you should close The Corner.

    The other thing that occurred to me was the need for a kitchen in the first place. When The Corner opened way way back when, it didn’t have any food and they allowed you to order in food from other places. It had a certain circus-like charm to it, pizza guys and Jimmy Johns guys trying to find the people who ordered the food. Then they decided to make their own food, which I suppose was because of the lost revenue of people eating. Maybe that was a good idea at the time, but in hindsight, it kind of sounds like another way they could have saved a lot of money (and maybe not lost so much money) is to stop serving food.

  71. Michelle
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    I worked at ABC for a short time many years ago. While I was there, I didn’t hear anyone complain about anything more than bad tips. Even after I got let go via email, NOT by Renee but the general manager, I still continued to patronize the place. When I moved away I tried to find it’s LA equivalent. A few came close but never quite nailed it.

    It really stinks that these people have to defend how they spend their money. Did anyone ever stop to think that maybe some of these trips are work related? Last I check Europe has a strong, centuries old beer culture. Or that maybe the airline bumped them to first class for free? Plus, it is only Corner’s figures being under fire here. ABC is an older business and if you want to go by business statistics, it probably turns a profit. Those profits are probably what they live on and it’s not of our business. I have worked for a few small business owners and they do not take home a paycheck. My boss in LA owns two very successful markets downtown and takes home ZERO dollars. This is after paying taxes, paying employees, paying for the products she sells, paying rent, you get the idea. I witnessed this woman stress over how she was going to pay her investors back. It’s very hard to own a business.

    Also, Corner is a community space. As much as people have a hard time thinking of a bar being a community space, sorry it is. In this respect, I think it is perfectly reasonable to ask for community help to improve the space. Maybe they way the Greffs went about it was a bit unorthodox and taken the wrong way. There are always a few employees that no matter what are never satisfied and feel scorned. Hell, I was never given a reason why I was fired in the first place and here I am defending the people who own the place i was fired from!

  72. put down the beer
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    A few of the items that have not been disputed by the Greffs:

    -They had their kitchen staff working outside during last year’s polar vortex for $9 an hour.

    -They asked these same kitchen employees to donate to the campaign to build a kitchen.

    -They have yet to pay back their investors even a single dollar.

    -They say they made $1.7 million last year, and claim they’ve yet to make a profit.

    -After taking money from investors in Ypsilanti, they decided to pursue a venture in India, leaving the Ypsilanti venture to falter.

    -They brought this to a head by posting a private email from the owner of another local bar.

    Before calling the Metro Times article a piece of trash, let’s first address these issues.

  73. kjc
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    Well a coworker of mine who saw my comments on this blog just came over to say she worked for the Greffs at ABC many years ago and had a terrible work experience, finally quitting one day in frustration. She said they were “horrible fake people” who acted one way in front of patrons and another to employees. She said she can’t believe they’re finally getting comeuppance for their entitled attitude and shitty treatment of their workers and described her experience of Rene as “Let them eat cake”. She even said she has avoided Democratic politics in this area, despite her desire to be more involved, because the Greffs have such a large footprint in that realm. Guess it’s not all good they’re doing in the community. For the record, she had no idea they supported Snyder and is no hater. She was genuinely shocked to hear that.

    So good for those who had/have no complaints. But maybe imagine a world where others have different experiences and speak of them. I know my coworker to be honest and hardworking and to have a well-functioning “asshole detector”. I believe her completely.

    Honestly I think the people who are defending them so wholeheartedly—and ignoring facts and the douchey jetsetting—are probably people who go through life feeling similarly entitled. How dare the rabble butt in w/their stories of lousy treatment.

    I also think it’s incredible that Matt and Rene’s biggest defense is “we’re not unethical. we’re just inept.” But they obviously have a fan base who buys it.

    Meanwhile workers? Eh they’re just bitter assholes. We know this without even knowing them: “There are always a few employees that no matter what are never satisfied and feel scorned. ”

    No wonder unions are dead.

  74. put down the beer
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Chris Savage at Eclectablog is fighting back.

    The Detroit Metro Times has a long history of doing investigative journalism about issues that are often overlooked by other media outlets. They have developed a good reputation for their reporting because of it. However, with a recent piece published this week titled “Arbor Brewing Co. presents a case study in local business ethics and crowdfunding “, they have devolved into little more than a tabloid, willing to run a smear piece simply as clickbait.

    The attack piece is based entirely on allegations made by a former employee of the Arbor Brewing Company Microbrewery (formerly “The Corner Brewery”) in Ypsilanti. The “journalist” Tom Perkins insinuates, based on what he was told by the unnamed former staff member, that the Matt and Rene Greff coerced their hourly employees into promoting their Indiegogo crowdfunding effort that raised over $75,000 to replace their kitchen which was completely inadequate for the increased demand for food they experienced.

    This wasn’t a for-profit company begging people to give them money. This was a modern effort to raise capital and to do it in a way that was fun for everyone involved. Those who contributed got something in return. Employees were also incentivized to help with the effort and could win prizes, etc. if they were successful in helping drum up interest.

    The shoddy tabloid smear piece by Perkins at the Metro Times paints an entirely different picture. Despite the kitchen manager confirming that there was never any pressure on employees, you come away from the piece with the impression that the Greffs were exploiting their supporters and their hourly employees, an insinuation that is entirely false.

    Read more:
    http://www.eclectablog.com/2015/02/detroit-metro-times-goes-full-tabloid-with-smear-piece-on-arbor-brewing-co-owners-matt-rene-greff.html

  75. donald o'bloggin
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read all the comments, so forgive me if this has been said.

    Part of the issue here is finances and how screwey Michigan’s laws have been about brewing.

    Before April 2014, someone owning a brew pub (ABC downtown) couldn’t own a bottling line. Thus, matt and renee hadnto do lots of weird financial things to seperate their two businesses. And bottling lines essentially don’t make any money.

    So, the corner brewery likely hasn’t made money, and likely never will, as long as the front of house and bottling systems are considered the same.

    If this cluster F of a PR campaign has taught them anything, I would hope that it’s they need to rearrange the businesses finances, probably splitting the corner into two businesses, setting up a holding company, and having India, ABC downtown, and corner front of house all buy into said holding corp that owns the bottling facility. That at least would separate the Corners profits up front from its debt in the back, and allow the cash from the other businesses to buy out the early investors who are long overdue for their returns.

  76. Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Wow, has this ever become a lightening rod within the crowdfunding network in the area over the last 24 hours. There are a lot of interesting lessons here that many others have already highlighted. For our team, which is regularly called on across the state to educate businesses about the different ways to raise capital within the community and the pros and cons of each method, this is officially becoming a case study that we will now openly discuss in presentations over the next year. Investor relations, business management, capital raise strategy, public relations.. This runs the gambit and many other businesses can learn from these mistakes.

    For the investors… I recommend that you pull together and ask them for an investor relations plan. This could become an advisory board that meets quarterly or biannually where financials are shared and challenges are tackled leveraging the expertise among their investor class. Running at a loss after nearly a decade points to business management issues and if not tackled and course corrected, we will lose Corner and you’ll lose any hope of a return of principal let alone return on capital.

    Also, someone asked how they could raise capital from nonaccredited investors. If they did a Reg D offering they could have up to 35 nonaccredited investors, so that’s how.

  77. Dan
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    “So, the corner brewery likely hasn’t made money, and likely never will, as long as the front of house and bottling systems are considered the same.”

    Maybe that is something they should have disclosed with investors instead of telling them they’d start seeing money in 3 years

  78. detroit slim
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    Sorry but I’m gonna take the word of actual employees over management and owners any day in any business. If these folks are not making money like they stated in their response, how are they living and flying around to all of those different countries? Do you people know how much a trip like that costs lol?! Whos paying for that. Asking any employees for any donations other than a charity is tasteless in itself.

  79. concerned
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    Since my first comment probably won’t get approved because Mark wants to stay impartial I will rephrase. I am in no way a business savvy person and I do not own any business nor do I want to. But I am smart enough to know that if any business has lost over $300k over the past two years that perhaps it shouldn’t be in business anymore. If they are able to invest $165k into the business without taking a salary from it perhaps they are making enough from their other businesses so they don’t have to take a salary from this one and are able to reinvest it. As far as letting their workers take unemployment I’m sure someone from that office has taken note and will potentially be investigating it in the future, legal or not. But the math doesn’t add up and I’m sure I’m not the only one who would donate to a crowdfunding account to raise money for a forensic accountant.

  80. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    If what Donald O’Bloggin said is true, regarding the drag that the bottling side of the business has on the “front house”, then I have to wonder if that was disclosed to investors or if that fact was glossed over when pitching potential investors. Was this investment understood as a high risk/ high reward investment?

  81. tommy
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    All these business people with multi-million dollar multi-level / location businesses in Ann Arbor, LA, and presumably all over our country who can’t even pay themselves because they can’t make a dime. Rich business owners must be the dumbest people on the planet; or lying sacks of shit.

    Bottling lines essentially don’t make any money? Got to be a reason to have one other than they are money losers.

    Michelle – nothing equivalent to a local brewpub where the community can gather in LA, a city of 7 million or so? Come on.

  82. tommy
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Think you found a topic for your Saturday Night Six pack Radio Show. Might need a 12 pack. Probably should buy ABC’s product. Word is they are broke, haven’t been paid in 8 years, and drive around in a shared Ford Focus. They can use the $18 for the 2 six packs

  83. donald o'bloggin
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

    The profit is from distribution (in that it’s earned by the distributor), or in the glass. Here’s a graphic showing the common margins. Remember also that the amount of money tied up in a bottling system is huge, even having bought used ones.

    http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/5670015

  84. Bob
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

    What’s the opposite of “hatchet-job?” That’s what the Eclectablog (ugh) piece seems like to me. A far hackier excuse for journalism. It doesn’t even have a person’s name attached to it. It might as well have been written by Matt or Rene Greff. Maybe it was. At least Tom Perkins has his name attached to his story. I hope he follows up.

  85. Dan
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Bob,

    it was written by Chris Savage, who is a personal friend of the Greff’s

  86. Mr. Y
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

    Donald, that graphic shows a typical 8% margin for the brewery on each bottle of beer. Given margins in food service, that doesn’t seem all that small to me. Of course the margins selling your own beer at your own bar are going to be a lot higher, but 8% doesn’t sound that bad, assuming bottling doesn’t keep you from selling on-premises.

  87. tommy
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Donald O – thanks for the link to the article on the cost of producing a 6 pack. True that bottling is a huge cost driver and is considered a sunken cost that needs to be recoupled over time. The article also notes a hefty markup in the process from getting it to the distibutor and ultimately the customer. I’ll say it again, if you are losing money – for years – on the product you are producing, then you should get out of the business. I honest do not think that this outfit loses money year after year but keeps things rolling for the good of the community.

  88. Cat
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

    Tommy, you’re assuming that they really are losing money.

  89. tommy
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    When the owners talk about not paying themselves for 8+ years, indicate that they have lost 300K over the past 2, and arrogantly (my opinion) proclaim that they have made ‘personal’ loans of 165K to the company to, among other thing, meet payroll, then yes I think that is the assumption I am making.

    I don’t believe it for a second (again my opinion)

  90. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Metro Times has been around a long time now and broke some of the most important regional under-reported (or never reported) news stories in the region for years. They had a hand in bringing to first light many of the excesses of the Kilpatrick Administration, the Detroit incinerator, the EAA, discrepancies in the Detroit Water and Police department, and held to the fire the governorships of Blanchard, Engler, Granholm and Snyder in ways that the Freep/Detnews JOA papers never would dream. They aren’t perfect, and indeed, I’ve been troubled with their recent merger with Real Detroit entertainment weekly and emphasis on payola with their MMJ and club ads/feature articles, but that said, as a source, they have …generally… an acceptable reputation as objective in ways that perhaps Mlive (who Tom Perkins also works for…) seems not to be, and if people recall, similar accusations of dodgy use of crowdsourcing for for-profit businesses were leveled quite vociferously against Ann Arbor’s Blimpies Burgers when they too did an indiegogo campaign to re-open (i know I still won’t eat there because of that boondoggle). That said, I don’t think ABC or the Greffs deserve a free pass from investigation just for being local, being about Ypsilanti, or being any of the other fine things their supporters are maintaining about them and their businesses, and I think the immediate and vociferous response to this MT article demonstrates the level of caring people have about transparency and ethics in their local business stalwarts. I hope they can overcome this “bad press” but also, more importantly, learn the lessons that “bad press” provides to improve their business and relations with their employees.

  91. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    Seems like alot intense debate….is actually sorta old news…

    http://www.mlive.com/business/ann-arbor/index.ssf/2014/09/crowdfunding_effort_for_ypsila.html

    The comments from “Elizabeth” and her back and forth with “thatsabear” are enlightening given the turn of events of late…

  92. Ted the Head
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    The best thing to do would be to sell the Corner to another brewery who knows how to run a brewery in the black. Take the money and pay everyone back including everyone who chipped in on the crowd sourcing and all investors.

  93. red man
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Not going to beat the issues already raised. Very good ones, mostly damming imho.

    But, how legal is it to have a kitchen, outside, in.The.winter. Gotta be some law against this. Who would work this way? Seriously? It’s one thing to work construction, road work and kinda expect to be in the elements. The thought of this being some poor schleps job for $9 is comical. I’d expect to see that in some absurdist sitcom, not in real life.

    That alone (for me) is beyond defending. Don’t even need to get started on the rest of the impressive list of immaculate fuckups.

    Karma indeed.

  94. Dan
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    Lol @ the comments in the mlive link from Steve P. Between the comments by “thatsabear” and the decision to post the “hate mail” to her facebook wall, I think maybe Rene should stay off of the internet when she’s drinking

  95. Posted February 19, 2015 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Metro Times is always available at The Ypsilanti Food Co-op and I see it in the window at SideTrack when I walk by. :-)

  96. Bob
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    If ”thatsabear” is indeed Rene, then I take back everything I ever said. I love her. Crazy rambings, speaking about herself in the third person…it’s fantastic. The whole thing has sort of a delightful Wes Anderson quality anyway. Spunky upstarts bilking investors back in small-town America while they traverse India in search of spiritual enlightenment and breakfast cocktails. Meanwhile, the plebs back at home toil outdoors, in a roofless kitchen during winter months. Owen Wilson can play Matt.

  97. Kali
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Yes, sadly my first thought was of Crazy Wisdom as well. A frustrating truth it seems. Workers paid the minimum, the owners occasionally swanning in between expensive trips. Not great for morale.

  98. Posted February 19, 2015 at 8:44 pm | Permalink

    Okay…strike two. The Greffs seems like real scummy people. And Maynard is really between a rock and a hard place. He basically just gave them $10,000 that it doesn’t seem he will be getting back. The only thing I can say for them is that the A2 location has a VERY stable staff, which has got to mean something. Of course, it may just mean that they hired a great bar manager and have left that person alone to do their job. From the sound of their jetsetting lifestyle, that may be the case. As for me, I’m done. Not that I live in Ann Arbor anymore anyway, but I do visit, and it’s just like how I do not shop at Whole Foods or eat at Chik-Fil-A. I don’t care to contribute to these clearly awful people who seem like such shitty bosses. By rights they should fail. But of course that’s not how it works. I just feel like once you know about stuff like this, if you still patronize the establishment you’re complicit.

  99. blueeyedpupil
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    if the brewery has never made a profit, and they have never drawn a salary, am i the only one wondering how much of their personal expenses are business deductions. And maybe their high fallutin lifestyle is why they never made a profit for them or their investiors

  100. Bob
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 9:27 pm | Permalink

    They may be tipping bloody Mary’s with the IRS before they know it. Talk about drawing attention to yourselves.

  101. barflu
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 10:54 pm | Permalink

    If one hasn’t looked or noticed, the India brewpub is insane. The reason it is insane is because it is independently funded by the Indian partners. By insane I mean it is beautiful and gushes luxury and awesome. That is derived entirely from an entity that exists on the other side of the planet and has been franchised per the Greffs Brand. That is one basic piece of information that dismantles the allegation that the greffs are running around the world, jetsetting, as I’ve read, on the investors or corners dime. The Greffs were signed as consultants to realize Guarav Sikka’s Dream as a former UofM biz grad. In order to displace the Greffs to the other side of the world i’d imagine the expense probably comes from said business hands. They have put no money into this venture and are signed on as consultants that retain a 5% profit share for the project. So when one says they’re sipping cocktails flying over the pond- wouldn’t you want a bloody on a 12+hr flight? The questions raised from this article are worth asking and the answers are worth hearing. I feel, however that too many key facts and numbers have been replaced with allegation and snide intent to disrupt their operation.

  102. Kevin
    Posted February 19, 2015 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

    Maybe we need to set up a kickstarter for Mark and Linette’s $10k.

  103. Joanne
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    Two things: if anyone’s had accounting you’ll understand that business accounting is not like a personal bank account. You don’t start with one million dollars, draw from it to pay everyone and everything, and then add in the cash you take in. It’s expense laid out in various accounts, compiled in an income statement. It’s assets such as the building, tables and chairs, counters, stove, minus any depreciation; receivables, payables, cash, revenue, liabilities, etc. It’s plus this and that accounting category minus others. Then the balance sheet shows the bottom line. A company can have zero revenue, make no money but be asset rich with few liabilities or payables drawing down their cash-Facebook for example, for years before ad sales-and yet have cash from investors and the bank to make payroll and buy things to run the business. And as for bank loans, a bank gives a line of credit to meet operating expenses such as payroll and buy what it needs to run the daily business. Typically, it’s paid back at the end of the month and drawn down beginning the next month. All companies must go to banks for loans for other things such as building and expansion of the business. A loan for the kitchen would be a loan to expand or improve the building and would be a capital investment from the bank. For whatever reason, maybe due to profit loss of $200k Matt said they had two years ago and the $100k this past year, or a lack of revenue paid to the owners, they were not able to secure a capital loan from the bank and didn’t have their own to draw from. Not sure. But again, business accounting is nothing like your personal check book accounting.

  104. Ken
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 1:16 am | Permalink

    I don’t get why it is a-ok to crowd fund a movie, but crowd funding a restaurant is over the line. This whole thing reminds me of when everybody lost their shit when Blimpy Burger had the gall to crowd fund their new place.

  105. Dan
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 7:19 am | Permalink

    Ken

    A lot of people lost their shit when Zach Braff crowd funded a movie

  106. EOS
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    The Gref’s celebrate the killing of 1 – 1.5 million babies each year. It doesn’t get any more immoral than that.

  107. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    It appears the longsuffering Greff’s are writing most of their defenses on Facebook from Bangalore India. Digest that as we enjoy the subpolar temps.

  108. to barflu
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I’ve been hesitant to weigh in on this, as I don’t know all of the facts. From what I’ve heard, though, barflu is right. My understanding of the Indian operation is that the Greffs were made an awesome deal by a Indian family with very deep pockets. They were paid a lot to consult and given a piece of the company. I’m sure they also licensed the Arbor name. And, since that point, the Indian operation has been their number one priority. The people working at the Corner rarely see them. So, when Matt says that resources weren’t diverted, he’s being disingenuous. Local people invested in him and Rene and they bailed out for a better offer leaving them high and dry.

  109. Brainless
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Can we talk about Mark airing his personal business and how bad form that is? “Oh, I just innocently responded to some reporter’s question… blah blah blah… boo hoo.” You also had the choice just to shut your goddamn mouth, but you chose to air your shit in public. And now, both on FB and here on your blog, you fan this bonfire of ignorant hate out of this tiny little flame, all the while siting back and telling everybody how you tried so hard to fix this, you honorable man, you.

    You’re an amateur investor who made a shit investment. If you can’t afford it, you’re a moron for doing it (and folks who aren’t posting here are indeed laughing at you for your stupidity, I guarantee it). If you can afford it, then you’re a bitter little man who took his hissy fit public. So, which are you?

    And to rest of you, if you don’t like it, don’t go to the brewery. Don’t buy their products. What the fuck is wrong with all of you? There are huge businesses all over the place fucking us over raw and you bitch and moan and cry and whine like spoiled brats because one tiny little business with which you have no involvement whatsoever isn’t exactly what you want. Hey, try to get Comcast to be like you want, you jackasses. And Bob, you’re probably one of the biggest pricks here. Yeah, grab a cold longneck Bud, you dipshit. Maybe the Brazilian company that owns them can cut down some more rainforest so you can sit in some dark little place and complain about how the world fucked you over while you drink your rice beer and stare at your burgeoning gut.

    Mark, you have sunk too low. Maybe you’re just too thick to realize how much you’re damaged your own reputation here.

  110. kjc
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    You mad?

  111. Anonymous
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Don’t hold back, Brainless. Tell us how your really feel.

  112. Bob
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Brainless will definitely be played by Chevy Chase in the film version.

  113. Robert Davis
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    Brainless, your Buyer Be Aware defense is purely only Macro. Wayyyyy more involed to paint that broad brush stroke here. This just stinks really bad.

  114. kjc
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    no, Brainless is right. everyone should stfu and be outraged about more important things. i can’t worry about comcast though because ISIS.

  115. Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    Just wanted to say this–a friend of mine (who doesn’t comment here AFAIK) just texted me about EOS’ forced birth comment. I love this website!

    Okay, back to arguing about the Greffs! And stay warm! Even our cat who always tries to escape when Ken goes to work was all, “Fuck this shit” and stayed on his heated Cat bed.

  116. Ted the Head
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    Brainless, you really are brainless about this. I think it took courage for Mark to actually weigh in on this. Most people who get ripped off on investments feel too embarrassed to admit that they are guilty of losing their hard earned money to people that they actually trusted and believed in. Most business people pay back their investors and also pay their debts before living the high life. It does not matter which pocket they are taking it from it is still their pockets. If anyone is a dip shit it is you!
    You are as fake as the Greffs. Please write a check to them to show how you really feel and put your money where your fucking mouth is!

  117. kjc
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    wait! The Greffs should use EOS’s comment as an opportunity to claim persecution from the religious right. What better deflection!? Text your friend to text them.

  118. Barry LaRue
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Seems like this whole thread has gotten a bit out of hand. Brainless may have a point, though. Perhaps I wouldn’t have worded things in such an incendiary fashion, but Mark, Linette, me and my wife Kim did make an investment which has, to this point, not panned out. That’s hardly anything new among investments . I guess the aggrivating thing is that over the nine years we’ve waited and the many “free beer tomorrow” emails the investors have gotten during that time I’ve learned a good deal about “limited partnerships.” LIMITED is the operative word. Had never invested in one before and, unless I win the Power Ball, won’t be doing so again! My bad. As nearly as my memory serves we have only had between 2 and 3 annual meetings as the partnership agreement requires over the nine year period. As far as the kitchen funding goes, I had no problem with it and certainly the quality of food has increased and the level of misery on the part of the kitchen staff has decreased now that the improvements have taken place. That’s all I really have to say on this. Like Mark, I just answered the reporter’s questions related to my investment experience and stand by the accuracy of what I told him. Looking forward to things simmering down…

  119. Pocket Beaver
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

    I don’t agree with what Brainless says about Mark, but I’m sympathetic with the spirit of his/her comment in general. Bitching about and attacking a successful, local, community-oriented business in a community that desperately needs these kinds of businesses is pretty lame. Especially just based on the grumblings of a disgruntled employee in a poorly-researched article. No one seems to pay attention to the reality that the fundraiser was mostly about pre-buying things (e.g. mug club) that Corner already offered, but at a hugely discounted rate. If there was a handout it was to the patrons who took advantage of the deals! Yeah, the Greffs may be a bit douchey, but we need MORE people like them in Ypsi and less armchair critics. There are better things to be outraged about. Get a fucking life.

  120. Alan Goldsmith
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    Chris Savage at Eclectablog is such an ass-kissing hack, the highlight of which was his ‘defense’ interview with the Greffs about their contributions to Ricky Snyder, their good pal. Lipstick all over their backsides. Made me want to throw up. You can see what kind of kiss kiss blogger Savage is by his recent story on the financially ‘challenged’ head of the local Democratic Party. All of this is karma for their supporting a true right wing asshole who wants to be President and needed the cover of being a moderate, something the Greffs were responsible for. As for this post, I appreciate how Mr. Maynard continues to be reasonable and balanced, even when I don’t agree with every one of his opinions.

  121. Robert Davis
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Pocket Beaver,
    the Greffs instrumental in getting a fake moderate Republican elected to Gov? The MASSIVE dagger stuck into the workers of Michigan with his right to work, a crown jewel for the right wing, in a blue labor state. Appointment of right wing judges and board members of universities, among other nightmares? The Greffs centered in Ann Arbor a perfect liason to get the rich votes Snyder, needed, with their establisments, hmmmm?. The damage is done. Now flank back with nothing to see here, lets move on we’re good Dems, uggghh.
    This all just connects and smells awful in the conclusions. YUCK, in my opinion. Good luck.

  122. thatsabear
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Let me see if I’ve got this straight. Mark did not have people working outside for nine dollars an hour last winter. Mark did not ask employees to contribute toward the building of walls. Mark did not post his lavish international vacation itinerary. Mark did not post a private email forcing all of this to the surface. His crime, as it’s been explained here, is that he answered questions honestly, and then, after the fact, came out to say that he thought it was more a matter of “tone-deafness” than bad ethics on the part of the owners. And for this he’s got people like you, Brainless, calling him a “bitter little man” who “had the choice just to shut his goddamn mouth.” Do I have that right?

  123. Lynne
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    FWIW, although I find much to criticize the Greff’s about their employee relations, I really do think they have the best of intentions. I don’t work for them anyways. This has not affected my willingness to go drink beer at the Corner. To be honest, if I really stop to think about it, I am way more annoyed about the name change than any of this. Whatever. I am sure this will all blow over soon.

  124. Pocket Beaver
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

    I wasn’t fooled, but I know a few good people who were duped by Snyder’s false claims of being a moderate. It seems to me that the Greff’s have pretty much have a proven track record of supporting Democrats otherwise. Plus, if I made my all of decisions on where to eat and drink based on the politics of the owners I would probably have to stay home. Reasonable people can disagree, and I have no interest in turning Ypsi into some kind of liberal utopia by boycotting every good business that comes along just because my politics don’t align 100% with the owners. If that’s how you want to channel your outrage, go for it.

  125. Robert Davis
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

    Their Democrat track record is irrelivant, now. The crown jewel was penned into law, get it,,,?

  126. anonymous two
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    They knew what they were doing. Snyder was good for them. He appointed Matt to the Liquor Control Board upon taking office. It wasn’t about politics. It was about business. I cannot believe how gullible you all are.

  127. Robert Davis
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    THEY?, needed Snyder? HA! Oh boy,,,Good luck,,,

  128. Robert Davis
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    The Greffs have people lining up tossing money at them.
    Snyder needed the Greffs, get it yet?

  129. Pocket Beaver
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

    Wow, I get it now Robert. My eyes are wide open. You’re a enlightened genius and the rest of us are idiots. Thank you. I’m never drinking at Corner again.

  130. Kristin
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s pretty hard to imagine that your struggling business will get any better without you being on site. I’ve seen people try to do that before, and it just doesn’t work. A venture that isn’t realizing its potential, and this is assuming that’s true for the CB, needs the owner’s undivided attention. That’s how you figure out what to tweak to make it successful or realize that initial projections were flawed and unachievable. To me that’s the most obvious blunder, and one with which I’d be unhappy with, were I an investor.

  131. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

    Brainless’ comment about the Bud Light got me to thinking about how smarmy the downtown ABC was if anyone saddled up to the bar and actually ordered one. They’d smirk, wink at each other, and then, on cue, one of the bartenders would recite the curt remark that “we don’t sell Bud Light here…but we do have Amstel Light…it’s the closest thing we sell to a Budweiser product…”

    The irony was that Amstel (a Heinken product…) actually eventually became their best selling bottled beer at the downtown location.

    Give the people what they want, and if that doesn’t work, give them what you want but cloak it in a bunch of progressively minded gobbledy gook until they don’t care what the hell you sell them.

  132. EOS
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    Teacher Patti,

    So you have a friend who screens this blog and texts you when I post? I’m flattered but puzzled. Why?

  133. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    I guess it’s a credit to the Corner and the Greffs that I dont think any of us have ever had such a complex and morally ambiguous relationship to where we drink beer as we have to this place. Like look at me…I’m like a primo hater but I still sorta savor that outdoor yard when Spring comes along and I can get some writing done out there in the sun. I’m already over it unless they pull new shenanigans.

  134. yesshesaid
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

    Why has no one noted that they sell their draft beer at Joe Louis Arena? So they have other accounts similar to this? I can’t imagine that a contract such as that would be a small one. Is that also under a different business than the Corner Brew?

    I have learned to be cautious of folks who walk in to their own bar with a spray tan and dressed head to toe in garments purchased from the Fredrick’s of Hollywood catalog in the late 1990’s. hehehehe. Low blow…but anyone seeing Rene on a regular basis can at least allow a little chuckle!

    Coming from a very experienced server/bartender in the Ann Arbor area for over a decade, I tried working at Arbor Brewing Company last year. I found it to be highly unorganized, the staff seemed to be disposable, the staff generally did not have respect for Rene, I was asked to perform things strictly against health code as part of my daily sidework (I’m pretty laid back about germs. I’m ok changing expiration dates on natural preservative such as vinegarette, but asking a server to change expiration dates on dairy based products was appalling to me. I hope the BOH wasn’t asked to do more?), and I was extremely frustrated that an establishment with the environmental reputation such as ABC did not even have a recycle bin beyond beer and liquor bottles (no back of house kitchen recycling and when I attempted to start one, Rene did not approve.) I felt that Matt and Rene’s opinion was “if the customers don’t see it, then we don’t care.” I still like and respect a lot of the staff at both places and I have known many for years. I choose to still patronize both to support the people, even though I find the beer to be just ..meh.

    I do hope people at least get a Krampus card in the mail every year if not at least part of their original investment back. I know everyone is saying they are different businesses, but I ran a (yes very small) business for eight years, but you make accounts overlap as to not to screw people over. You pay people back. that is called Being a Decent Human Being 101.

    I went into this job extremely optimistic, but was immediately disenchanted by the extremely slow server computers from the era of the original Oregon Trail video game which crashed several times a week (staff telling me they had begged for new ones for years while Matt and Rene were in India opening a new place) to the condescending nature of the nearly non-present owners. I quit within three weeks without a back up job which I have never done in my life. I know I wasn’t missed, but I am actually very surprised they have been able to keep several badass servers/bartenders over the long term. I really wanted to like and respect Matt and Rene and be a piece of the ethics I thought they stood for. I am happy to say that I am currently working a serving position where I make a little less money, but I truly respect the owners and I am proud to be a part of the place. There is no false hierarchy within the staff or owners or management. The owners don’t feel they need to promote how “progressive” they are. They just are. By being themselves.

  135. Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Chris Savage should stick to education and state-level issues. His writing is sensationalistic and doesn’t do what the Greffs need in this stuation. Thanks for everybody else’s input here. I appreciate all your perspectives. I think it is time for these people to apologize or buck up and deal with the damage they brought upon themselves.

  136. Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    EOS, she happened to see the anti-abortion thing and it tickled her. We both have played the “bingo” game with the MLive commenters to see when someone brings it up.

    I thought you liked the Corner (despite political differences)? I remember finding common ground with you on something and I thought that was it.

  137. Anonymous
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    You people crack me up.

    Do any if you realize how shady almost each and every restaurant that operates in Ann Arbor is? I had a friend fired from Cafe Zola because she was pregnant, friends denied overtime wage (even though they were receiving only $9/hr and that was thanks to that “FFrench family” that doesn’t represent “themselves as some bullshit, socially aware, alternative business model”). This business owner also admittedly denied paying tip to minimum to employees and paying hours at all if an employee failed to remember to clock out. I also saw business owners who watched me wait on 1 table in 5 hours and sympathetically tell me “I’m not making any money either , honey” while sipping on a glass of $150/ bottle Cabernet . Said martini and oyster bar also charged the staff 2% of their tips if they were tipped by credit card. A different business fired another friend due to his race. Look, I can go on and on and on. Almost every single restaurant abuses their employees and fails to abide by the laws set by the State of Michigan. To be honest, I know that there may be restaurants that run properly in Ann Arbor but I have yet to hear about them. The only one in this biz who isn’t corrupt is the health inspector (thank God).

    I’ve seen it all in A2 and heard it all. The fact of the matter is no matter what, most (not all) restaurant owners in A2 have no clue what it is to live on $9/hr nor care to. All they do is follow a business structure and are just simply that out of touch with the “peasant” reality that they coukd never even fathom paying their staff any more. I mean, look at the Greffs, you won’t take money from your successful businesses to invest in another of your businesses and instead run a crowd funding campaign? Ha!

    The fact of the matter is that if Ann Arbor and Ypsi were as progressive (and I don’t speak for everyone, only most) as they claim to be, they would be paying their staff $15/hr minimum and not just the kitchen, the front of the house as well. Study after study has proven that staff has given better service, better attendance, better attitude and most importantly, the restaurant gets more business! How is it that cities like Cleveland are successfully pulling this off and not oh-so-progressive Ann Arbor?

    In light of this, I challenge every restaurant owner in Ann Arbor to talk to their employees and find out what it’s really like to live on that wage, if you have the courage ( and please don’t ask obviously rich U of M students who only work because daddy made them get a job and they call off whenever they are hungover). Take your blinders off and find out who the real middle class has become and how you can really be progressive.

    The power is in your hands!!

  138. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    I agree Greg. I moved through several stages which included:
    1. Fuckin A I’m glad those fuckers finally got their card pulled for their rancid shit they pulled over the years..
    2. Oh boy maybe I was a little harsh..
    3. Oh wait they’re in India right NOW. Never Lind that angst.
    4. Gee I still sorta do like the yard there…
    5. Fuck now I remember how scantless they were about the “letting kids in” only till 8.
    6. I’ll miss it. I’m sure they’ll blacklist me now. Better use cash from now on.
    7. Wait…their beer basically sucks.
    8. There’s lots of bars. Fuck em. The end.

  139. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

    Typo Correction Dept:…”mind” instead of Lind…and “I agree Greg they brought this on themselves” and “I moved through the 8 Stages of I guess I gotta find a new bar grief”.

  140. Posted February 20, 2015 at 10:31 pm | Permalink

    Steve, word. I don’t drink alcohol, but would be happy to join you for a ginger ale at Cafe Ollie or Wurst Bar. Or Tap Room or Sidetracks or Bona Sera or Red Rock or… well you see where I going here.

  141. Posted February 21, 2015 at 12:14 am | Permalink

    @Mark – If you don’t mind me asking, how was your investment structured? Many small businesses will do a simple promissory note for a 1-5 year loan at 5-10% interest from friends/family, if they lack the historical cashflow for a bank loan – but it sounds like you may owned distributive shares as an LLC member with no profits, only losses flowing through to you? Did you not get regular updates on the business, as part of the operating agreement?

    As I tell new founders, it’s easy (or at least, straightforward) to make a product – anyone can spend money/resources. But it’s hard to build a company – a healthy, self-sustaining organization that takes care of everyone in the business (customers, employees, partners, investors) and produces a larger, long-term benefit to the community.

    Good corporate governance might seem like unnecessary overhead for a small business, but transparency and discipline is good for everyone involved, especially leadership who need to be held accountable. It really doesn’t need to be complicated – e.g. simple format for updating professional investors: http://updatemyvc.com

    I don’t know Matt or Rene, and have only patronized their businesses a few times, but wish them much success in building the best organization they possibly can, in the interests of the communities they serve. I doubt small business owners will have any interest in reading Peter Drucker anytime soon, but I’d hope the local chamber of commerce or Jean’s Small & Mighty group could help set a cultural standard of servant leadership in the small business community (which I worry is otherwise autocratic by default). It takes a village to raise a company!

    @Mark, I’m excited to see the business you’ll build and enjoy working on every day, with a team you love like family. We’ll all be awaiting your crowdfunding campaign on this blog… ;-)

  142. Fred
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    This was not the first time that the Greff’s got angry with Mark. Who remembers troughgate?

    http://markmaynard.com/2009/07/say-no-to-trough-urinals-in-ypsilanti/

  143. jasonkosnoski
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    Just to expand upon Anonymous’s comments most restaurants are highly exploitative. If people are interested in addressing these issues, or have individual complaints, they should contact the Restaurant Opportunities Center–Michigan. It’s an advocacy organization where workers can get resources and plan actions against poor employment practices.
    http://rocunited.org/michigan-2/
    I’ve always thought we needed a presence of this organization in Washtenaw County. We had a very successful campaign against abusive practices at Andiamo’s in Dearborn a few years back. If any folks were interested in getting something started in Ann Arbor/Ypsi, not only myself but I’m sure many others would get on board.

  144. facebook stalker
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    This comment left by someone on Facebook rings true.

    As a waiter with a good 15 years of experience in the field and having done the job in places such as Las Vegas and San Francisco , here is my two cents worth. Any restaurant anywhere in Michigan that turns 1.7 million in sales in a year and still loses money is doing so for only one of two reasons. Reason one, the ownership is inept and too incompetent to successfully run and operate such a business. Or two, the business is not intended to turn a profit but is in fact nothing more than a write off for ownership.

    That being said, it’s my speculation that the owners of this place don’t really give a shit about this business and are only keeping it open as a write off for their other successful business ventures. Because if it were a matter of incompetence then their other business would be suffering as well.

    Either way their investors got taken for a ride and will never see so much as one red nickel of the money they were duped out of.

  145. EOS
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    No Patti,

    That wasn’t it. Maybe it was our mutual appreciation of Dalton Trumbo’s, “Johnny got his gun” or our mutual admiration of the song Strange Fruit. We don’t always disagree, but I promise you that I’ll never be tickled over millions of dead babies killed because they were inconvenient.

  146. Posted February 21, 2015 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    “It’s difficult, however, to disentwine the two in one’s mind.” etc.

    For anyone who’s not objective, yes. The comments here and elsewhere demonstrate plenty of bitterness, resentment, anger, and that thing we do so well: “your business is my business, and I’m going to tell you how”.

    Everyone does the best they can at all times. And here we are.

  147. Forest Juziuk
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

    I gotta’ be honest, the comment by Brainless had me laughing harder than I have in a long time. This was especially choice: “…you jackasses. And Bob, you’re probably one of the biggest pricks here. Yeah, grab a cold longneck Bud, you dipshit.”

  148. Mark Lee
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 4:35 pm | Permalink

    Do you have anymore saving that you would like to invest Mark? I have this idea……

  149. Barry LaRue
    Posted February 21, 2015 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Mark Lee. If it involves either the Brooklyn Bridge or land in Florida Mr. Maynard is NOT interested!

  150. Anonymous
    Posted February 22, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Arbor Brewing Company investors might find this all very interesting. Years back, when plans to open a new venture in Ypsilanti were announced, some seemed kind of dumbfounded that the owners would start another business before returning their original investments.

    Ah, history repeats. Sounds like two businesses started with other people’s money and without a realistic plan to pay back the people who made it possible. They seem like nice people but perhaps with some mixed up priorities.

    Cheers!

  151. Rene Greff by proxy
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Rene has responded on Facebook:

    This is my last word on the MT affair. This was not something I enjoyed going through, but life lessons are never easy and I learned a lot last week. Perhaps most importantly I was reminded about compassion and karma. One of the things I strive to do (too often unsuccessfully) is to respond to slights and injustices with compassion and to try to see the people in my day who annoy me or piss me off as a Buddha sent to teach me something.

    Way back when this whole affair started, I received an angry email message from a stranger making many of the same charges as the MT article. If I had tried to figure out what the lesson was, I might have read past the f-bombs and seen the message that to some people who don’t know us personally and don’t understand the complicated relationship between our personal finances, brewpub finances, microbrewery finances, and ABC India finances, it looks like we’re rolling in money and therefore Corner must be rolling in money.

    I did a lot of research and talked to people with crowd-funding experience and made the best decisions I could at the time but there are many things I would have done differently with the crowdfunding campaign if I had it to do over. The biggest one is messaging. Instead of taking the traditional “why this campaign is worth supporting” approach, I should have taken a “great deals for a limited time, get ‘em while they last” approach. It never occurred to me that people would think that we were collecting donations. But to those who did, I can see how it would be offensive to be asked for money to support our business.

    When I got that message, it never dawned on me that others might feel the same way. So when Mark Maynard says we were tone deaf, he’s right – because to us travel to India or getting a surprise bump to 1st class on the way to visit my dad last fall had nothing to do with selling perks to build a new kitchen at the microbrewery. So my first fail was not seeing my facebook attacker as a Buddha with a message.

    My second fail was not looking for a compassionate way to respond. I felt sucker punched and I punched back. And any sports fan knows that it is the retaliation that draws the foul. If I had quietly and privately reached out to find out what the message was all about, not only would none of this happened, but I might also have gotten wind about some misinformation and some bad feelings out there and done something to correct the situation. Choosing to “out” a stranger without giving him the benefit of the doubt was in many ways worse than attacking a stranger without giving him the benefit of the doubt.

    I do not believe that Matt and I deserved to have a story riddled with outright lies and slanderous innuendo printed in the Metro Times but I have to accept the fact that I set into motion the chain of events that led to that outcome – and that’s Karma pure and simple.

    I want to thank all of our amazing friends for your outpouring of support over the past few days. (We actually had a blockbuster weekend at both breweries because so many people showed their support with a visit.) I also want to say that we’re not looking for retribution. I sent a list of factually false statements to the editor of the Times but probably won’t ask for a retraction because we just want the whole thing to die down. The way to stop a fight is to stop fighting.

    I owe Jesse an apology for taking his message public and starting this whole mess. I truly want him and his business to be part of a strong and successful Ypsilanti.

  152. kjc
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    Final offense: Passively aggressively dragging Buddha into it.

  153. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    Hey now, the Greff’s are like the Beatles now, can’t you see? They have gone to India, and will come back, produce Let It Be, and then Yoko enters the picture, they break up, and Ypsilanti gets Wings and a bunch of Ringo side projects.

  154. Frosted Flakes
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    If this boils down to bad “messaging”,then as kjc suggests, karma has nothing to do with it.

    Facebook is a commercial.

  155. Robert Davis
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    The R Greff rebutal, Ha Ha, lol, come on, classic,,,

  156. Ted the Head
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Rene, please stop the bull shit and pay back all investors who believed in you and pay your employees a living wage. All your michigan ventures are owned by you and Matt and so it is all your money no matter what pocket you are taking it from.

  157. Steve Pickard
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Facebook Buddha with a message was out there offering some killer deals on the Mug Club.

  158. JustAnYpsiKid
    Posted February 23, 2015 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Imagine this: from reading this post which includes their personal rebuttals, I am now more than able to form an opinion on the two of them, something I couldn’t have done without said post. They aren’t exactly painting themselves in the best of light. And the fact that they believe they are doing so, is tragic.

  159. Dave French
    Posted February 25, 2015 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    ala Jim Jones.

  160. anonymous
    Posted May 8, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    http://www.metrotimes.com/table-and-bar/archives/2017/05/08/sources-bigaloras-owners-to-buy-arbor-brewing-company

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