By Kyle Stucker
Hampton Union, April 14, 2014
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Susan Hutchinson, owner of Top Shelf Brews in Hampton, said she is looking
to sell her 826 Lafayette Road business so she can attend to a "personal issue."
[Rich Beauchesne photo]
HAMPTON — The owner of a popular Route 1 business has announced plans to close her store by June 1 if she isn't able to find a buyer that will carry forward the shop's legacy.
Top Shelf Brews owner Sue Hutchinson said it was “very difficult” for her to decide to walk away from her store after 1½ years of operation. Hutchinson said her goal was to bring a knowledgeable, customer-focused craft beer store to the Seacoast, and she's currently looking for someone to take those reins so she can focus on a “personal issue” that will make it difficult for her to continue to oversee the business.
“My decision is based on a family issue,” said Hutchinson. “It has nothing to do with how well the store is performing.”
Top Shelf Brews opened in September 2012 at 826 Lafayette Road, the former home of Hampton Copy. It has since developed a strong following thanks its overall selection, weekly tastings and a personable approach, among other things, according to customers.
Hutchinson said she received about “seven serious offers” for the business within the first two days of announcing it was for sale, which she feels is a “good thing” and shows that the business fills a need within the community.
“I wanted it to be different,” said Hutchinson, a North Hampton resident. “I didn't want to be a convenience store that carried beer. I built this based on my love of craft beer, my love of the industry, and my love of customer service. I'm looking for someone to take it over as-is and not just turn it over into a convenience store.”
Hutchinson said Top Shelf Brews will honor all outstanding gift cards, although she's asking customers to use them as soon as possible out of courtesy to the new owner. Part of the sale, though, will require the new owner to honor all existing gift cards, she said.
The business' frequent shopper program will also continue and allow customers to accumulate points, and Hutchinson said the Thursday night tastings will continue “for now.”
News of the impending sale has generated a lot of discussion within the community, particularly on the business' Facebook page. Jonathan Steinberg posted that Hutchinson and Top Shelf Brews “have definitely been a huge part of the beer community,” while Mike Twardosky wrote that he feels like he has “made friends” at the business instead of “just being a customer.”
Josh Brenner wrote that the business is “definitely going to be missed” and that “no one is even close to having as many awesome/hard to get craft beers that” Top Shelf Brews has.
Hutchinson said the ideal new owner would carry the business model forward in a way that fosters this kind of relationship and connection with its customers, and she said this level of “passion” is a must because she doesn't want an individual or individuals purchasing the store “just to get rich on the craft beer industry.”
“I want this place to continue on with what it is,” said Hutchinson, adding that she will help train the new owner and help ease the transition. “I love this store, I love my customers and I love this industry, so it's not easy at all (to leave), but family comes first.”