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Posted on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Corner Brewery: $1M expansion follows growth into Ypsilanti destination

By Katrease Stafford


Corner Brewery owners Matt and Rene Greff pose with others for a ceremonial ribbon cutting before giving a tour of the brewery room during a celebration and launch of their $250,000 Green Brewery Project in Ypsilanti on Wednesday, Aug. 29.

Chris Asadian | For

Matt and Renee Greff remember what the corner which now is home to the popular Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti used to look like.

“When we first started looking at this location it was vacant,” Matt Greff said. “Out back, there was a mattress with some empty pint bottles and some syringes."

"All of the windows were broken out," he said. "When we first opened people said, 'you're crazy, why are you going to open up a place in Ypsilanti?'"

The 9,000-square-foot building at 720 Norris St. was vacant for nearly 11 years. The Greffs purchased it in 2006 for $400,000 from Ken Schwartz, according to the city assessor.

The Greffs said the building has since been drastically changed.

This year, the Greffs completed a $1 million expansion and Green Brewery Project that included a new 2,200-square-foot warehouse to be used for bottling services and several solar projects.


The solar panels on the roof of the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti.

Chris Asadian | For

Rene said it took several years to find a location because the couple had a hard time finding someone to back them opening a business in the city. So they opened Arbor Brewing Company in Ann Arbor in 1995.

They came back to Ypsilanti in 2006 and were able to secure a location because they had a proven track record and brand recognition.

Six years later, Matt said the blight element has completely been removed from the neighborhood.


New solar panels line the roof of the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, 720 Norris St. The panels will provide hot water in addition to electricity for the building.

Jeffrey Smith |

“ We're seeing the parking lots full," Matt said. "A vibrant community gathering space — I think this is what urban centers need,”

The business has exponentially evolved and grown, the couple says. When the Corner Brewery first opened, it had five employees.

Now, the Greffs have about 30 employees.

"We have grown more than we ever imagined," Rene said. "We had no kitchen staff and we didn't have a separate kitchen. The bartenders made sandwiches. It was a very small operation. Today, we have a huge brewery staff and kitchen staff."

Rene said initially they underestimated the on-premise selling capability and were surprised at how the location turned into much more than a distribution center.

"Given the location, we weren't sure how much on-premise business we were going to do and that's been a pleasant surprise for us," she said. "We've been completely embraced by the neighborhood and we have so many local regulars that come and that's what created the demand for increasing our kitchen and adding more staff."

The Greffs just completed a $250,000 Green Brewery Project which included solar-thermal, photovoltaic, and geo-thermal technologies along with other improvements such as new windows, awnings and energy-efficient chiller equipment.


Jarrett Diamond, Corner Brewery's sustainability consultant, gestures toward a tank while telling a group about how the new solar panels positively affects the brewing process.

Chris Asadian | for reported in July the two businesses have been dubbed as Michigan's first solar breweries. The Greffs said that project almost never came into fruition after difficulties with a contractor.

The Corner Brewery project was completed by the end of July and will provide all of the hot water needs and up to 15 percent of its electricity. This will save the brewery $20,000 a year — nearly 50 percent of its energy bills.

The Greffs said by investing in all of these changes, they remain a step ahead, and also has allowed them to increase production.

In the span of 30 years, the number of U.S. breweries have grown from less than 100 to more than 1,700. In 2011, there were 1,989 breweries, and of that number 250 were new, creating a 15 percent increase in craft breweries.

Even so, the Greffs welcome the competition from local breweries and restaurants.

"With Red Rock and Wurst Bar opening, people are always like, 'are you worried about competition?'" Matt said. "And we're like, 'no way, the more the merrier.' It's just giving people a reason to come to Ypsilanti to try a bunch of different places. ... It is a business market here."

Rod Johnson, an Ypsilanti planning commission member, attended the Aug. 29 ribbon-cutting ceremony that celebrated the brewery's energy project.

Johnson said he and his wife have frequented the brewery throughout the years and believes it has added value to the community.

Johnson was on the commission when the Greffs first opened and said the commission made sure the business would be a good fit for the local neighborhood.

"We like the place. It's local beer and we can walk here from our house," Johnson said. "It is a community operation and unlike other entities in various towns, it's a very good reflection on Ypsilanti. These people are active in the community and the community pays it back by supporting them."

Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for her at or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.



Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:50 a.m.

Remember, the Greffs didn't build that business.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 12:13 a.m.

Ypsi really is the coolest pace in Washtenaw County. Inhabited by unpretentious, intelligent, progressive leaning people it has become what A2 used to be. Much more egalitarian/democratic than A2 it has become a destination. Since the Reagan revolution A2 has become more of a bastion for 1%er's, their kids and their elitist, capitalistic values. The heart of A2 is long gone.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 12:49 a.m.

Aquarius I know more then few conservatives that hang out in Ypsilanti, just saying don't thing you progressives have a lock on Ypsilanti. We're the ones that shower daily if you can't pick us out already.

Darrell Hawley

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 8:34 p.m.

This is one of my favorite hangouts, though I have not been able to frequent it as much as I used to. Congrats and a job well done, Matt and Rene!


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 5:52 p.m.

I love that these folks are doing well and helping grow a community. I especially love the "solar brewery" concept... proof positive that investing in clean energy creates jobs, helps the environment, and saves them money. I love the atmostphere of both ABC and the Corner. If only they could brew consistently good beer and estimate their demand better so that they are not always out of something I want. Last week I returned to ABC after not going there for about a year or so, and was once again reminded why I stopped going. Out of what I wanted, and what I settled on did not taste anything like the last time I had it.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 5:35 p.m.

The one thing I am not seeing here and may have missed in the article is that they also work with the Ypsilanti District Library. They hold a book club, or use to, once a month. They are a gem and glad they are working with the community.

Katrease Stafford

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 3:17 p.m.

A number of businesses like Corner Brewery, Red Rock, and Bona Sera have seemed to find success in Ypsilanti, are there any specific businesses that any of you think would be a good addition to downtown Ypsi or Depot Town?

Sarah Rigg

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 12:50 p.m.

Dudeabides: They actually combined the two DDAs in 2009:

greg, too

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 3:55 a.m.

Mark, as a person who has pondered opening a bookstore (i've helped open a small one in another town), what do you mean by a real bookstore? What are you looking for?


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:26 a.m.

Why is it people want to separate Depot Town from Downtown? Not just Ms. Stafford, but Ypsi residents and business owners as well. Hell, last I knew they even had separate DDAs. Only city in the state with 2 DDAs.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 4:22 p.m.

1. Art Supply/photographic supply store 2. A real bookstore.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 2:20 p.m.

Ypsi is leading this whole part of the state with its green energy initiatives, so kudos to the Corner Brewery for leading the way. It's also a great place to have a great beer!


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 3:22 p.m.

I've been a couple of times and enjoyed the place, but don't forget to thank the tax payers that paid a large part of green energy initiatives. Just saying they didn't build that by themselves. I wish they would have so they could take 100% of the credit, but the tax payers have a 6 figure investment in that place.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 2:14 p.m.

And thanks to the wonderful Corner Brewery for hosting the wonderful Shadow Art Fair and other projects!


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 4:13 p.m.

What is the Shadow Art Fair? I've never heard of it.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 1:49 p.m.

Remember, They did not build the Corner Brewery without some help! It's nice the see the 1%er's getting richer and hiring people but are they paying their "fair" share of the taxes? Maybe the city of Ypsilanti could squeeze a few more pennies out of these "Rich" people to make up the city's budget shortfall!

greg, too

Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 3:54 a.m.

I live in Ypsi and they live down the street from me. If they are 1%'ers, then I guess most every person in Normal Park is as well. Wow, who knew we were doing so well...?


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 3:43 p.m.

xmo....I got your sarcasm


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

You are right, pvitaly. In addition, any silver spoons the Greffs may have in their mouths were earned and put there by them. The also work well with local governments. They understand the value of teamwork.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 2:47 p.m.

I am pretty sure these two actually live in Ypsilanti... I seem to remember their house being robbed recently. Am I right?

Top Cat

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 12:25 p.m.

I love the beer and the relaxed atmosphere. So nice just to sit down (either inside or outside) and not have a waitress hovering over me. A very small nit....I wish the chairs around the tables were a little more comfortable.

Sarah Rigg

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 12:16 p.m.

I'm loving the Ypsi love in the story and the comments! I like the atmosphere at Corner. You might see a bunch of gamer geeks setting up a D&D game on a big table or encounter a meeting of "Skeptics in the Pub" or a young man and woman meeting for a first date. It's fun people watching!

Jon Carlson

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : noon

Amazing job and effort!

Linda Peck

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:53 a.m.

I too have noticed the liveliness in Ypsilanti of late, and the pretty plantings on Michigan Avenue. I often go to Depot Town and always enjoy it. Good for the Corner Brewery to make such a wonderful contribution to Ypsilanti. Good for Ypsilanti!


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:45 a.m.

Corner Brewery is one of the area's true gems.

Ben Petiprin

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:43 a.m.

The beer is fine, but it's more of a Starbucks than a bar. Who can drink and self loathe while a bunch of college kids tell dorm stories loud enough for everyone to hear and mess around constantly on their laptops? Hate going there frankly, but if they put their beer in more stores I'd probably buy it.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 3:36 p.m.

Put their beer in more stores? What are you talking about? I've seen ABC beer in most every store in between AA and Ypsi, including Kroger.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 2:15 p.m.

Go in the summer, Ben. Sit in the courtyard. Enjoy.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 12:58 p.m.

I see way more non-college students than those who attend. The lack of an immature, non-beer appreciating crowd is one of the many reasons I go.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:51 a.m.

That's the intended atmosphere. You can get the typical bar feel at their AA location.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:26 a.m.

The Corner Brewery is an asset to the community, and anyone that has spent some time there appreciates laid -back atmosphere. It's not one of those faux-memorabilia bars with loud music or plasticky people. It's a gathering place for people that enjoy a good beer, good conversation, and it's worth the drive from Ann Arbor.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:29 a.m.

Atta boy Mark, promote drinking and driving!


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

and it's worth a short, safe bike ride along the Border 2 Border trail!

Jim Osborn

Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 11:20 a.m.

What is a real shame is the restrictive state (or perhaps federal) laws that prevent small micro-breweries such as Ann Arbor Brewing and the Corner Brewery that are owned by the same owner and brew some of the same beers from transporting a keg that is brewed in one location to another. If Ann Arbor Brewing happens to run out of its popular Red Snapper on a Friday afternoon, and the Corner Brewery has several kegs on hand, by law, they cannot transport a couple in a van to their Washington Street location. This can cost them sales and does not serve the public well. I'm glad, though, that their latest endeavor in Ypsi is doing so well. I like both locations.


Thu, Sep 13, 2012 : 2:33 a.m.

Your right Get! Matt sold his soul to Rick Snyder so he can do this.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 12:07 p.m.

Never fear Jim, Matt is working on this and more.....but I think you know that! Lol. Way to be Matt and Rene's water boy.


Wed, Sep 12, 2012 : 10:20 a.m.

Great investment in the community. Now they should strive to improve their cleanliness- their health inspections have numerous violations include severe violations.