Spotted Dog Winery buys ex-Stucchi's manufacturing building for Saline expansion
Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com
Spotted Dog Winery, a winemaker and seller in downtown Saline, is planning to expand its production capacity after acquiring the former Stucchi's ice cream manufacturing plant in one of the city's industrial parks.
Sales for the winery, launched in 2003 by John Olsen and his wife Jill Olsen, have surged over the last six to eight months, sparking a need for additional winemaking space.
John Olsen said his business has been experiencing a steep growth
curve since opting within the last two years to seek additional
commercial clients such as local restaurants and grocery stores.
In the years before the economic crisis, the downtown Saline business
had focused almost exclusively on selling wine bottles to customers who
visited the store on Michigan Avenue.
But, after a day or two during the depths of the crisis when no one came through the door, Olsen decided to seek out commercial clients. The business' wine has since proven to be a hit locally.
"People really want to support local products," Olsen said. "I think that's happening across the country."
Spotted Dog Winery's commercial clients surged from just a few about two years ago to about 45 today, including local grocery chains like Busch's and Plum Market and local restaurants like Saline's Mac's Acadian Seafood Shack and Ypsilanti's Haab's Restaurant.
The company is taking control of the 6,000-square-foot former
Stucchi's manufacturing building at 1100 Woodland Dr. in Saline. Spotted Dog, represented by Charles Reinhart Co. agent Todd Lands, bought the building in a
real estate transaction that closed in March. Olsen declined to reveal terms of the deal.
Stucchi's exited its Saline manufacturing site sometime after the company that owns Papa Ramano's and Mr. Pita acquired the Stucchi's brand in 2008.
The business currently has capacity to produce about 1,000 cases a
year -- a case is 12 bottles -- but Olsen estimated that capacity could double
or triple within months. He said the rate of the manufacturing ramp up would depend on demand.
"For us it's just all the opportunity," Olsen said. "It's a place I'm not sure I envisioned when I first opened up, but it's kind of exciting to be part of."
The business plans to maintain its 1,600-square-foot retail and wine
tasting shop in downtown Saline, which is lined with wine boxes and the
occasionally mechanical cork-inserter.
Spotted Dog Winery has been doing all its production on site at the shop itself, but it's getting hard to keep up with demand, Olsen said.
"Sometimes we're scrambling to have enough wine here to fill all the orders," Olsen said.
Olsen said the Stucchi's plant was an excellent fit for wine production, which involves a variety of tanks and filtration technology.
"It was made for ice cream, so it's well insulated and climate controlled, so it's perfect to keep that relatively consistent temperature for making wine," Olsen said.
The business and the city of Saline are expected to collaborate to transfer a tax abatement on the former Stucchi's facility to the Spotted Dog to support the new tenant's growth.
For now, Spotted Dog Winery, named after the Olsens' dalmatians at the time, has just three employees, including marketing manager Lindsey Rodstrom and a sales person who focuses on the Detroit region.
But Olsen said he expects to hire more workers to staff the additional capacity he plans to add in the new facility. He also expects he might have to find a more efficient way to deliver wine, a task the staff currently handles on its own.
Spotted Dog Winery's success is part of broader momentum for Saline's downtown.
A few doors down, the former Kelly's restaurant is being revived as Mangiamo's Italian restaurant, the old R&B building is being revitalized as a manufacturing site for Sun Engineering, and Saline's Union School is becoming the headquarters for tech firm Quantum Signal.
"We've tried to create a lot of energy and activity down here and I think it's had something to do with attracting businesses and helping other businesses that may not have made it survive," said Olsen, who is also president of the Saline Downtown Merchants Association and a member of the city's Business Development Association board.
David Rhoads, a Saline City Council member, said Spotted Dog Winery's success was another sign of the city's downtown comeback.
"It’s a good illustration of how getting involved in your community can pay off on your business side," he said.