A few summers ago, Kristin Cagney was sitting by the pool with friends, sipping a spiked seltzer (remember those days?). She wasn’t sure where to go next in her career so jokingly she asked, “What if I just open a seltzery?”
The idea stuck. This summer, Cagney will open the first seltzery taproom on the East Coast right here in Charlotte’s Wesley Heights neighborhood.
Similar to the city’s dozens of breweries, Summit Seltzery will brew its own craft seltzer in-house, using a patent pending fermentation process designed by local brewer (seltzerer?) Dan Schiefen.
Seltzeries aren’t an entirely new concept. There’s at least one in Colorado and one in Washington, plus there’s the occasional non-alcoholic seltzer shop. But the others all started as a brewery and transitioned to a seltzery. Cagney, 28, will be the first owner to start as a spiked seltzery, with equipment designed for seltzer, not beer.
This is a big deal. Not even New York City beat Charlotte to this one. Here’s more details about Summit Seltzery, targeting a August opening:
Space: With 3,880-square-feet, Summit will have indoor and outdoor seating, an L-shaped bar, and activities such as shuffleboard and foosball. The seltzery, which is located across the street from Lucky Dog Bark & Brew, will be dog friendly. The address is 2215 Thrift Road.
When complete, Summit will have a minimalist feel, bright with natural light throughout and an exposed wood ceiling and accents of pink, blue, and red. Expect hand sanitizer stations throughout, too. Tim Finein of Peadon Finein Architecture is behind the design.
When it is safe to do so, Summit will also offer a 750-square-foot events space for yoga and fitness classes, charity events, birthday parties, and silent disco parties. (Cagney says she loves a good dance party.)
Drink menu: Summit will have about 14 seltzers on tap, covering a range of ABV — from non-alcoholic to higher gravity 8-percent seltzers. Flavors might include berry, citrus, juniper fennel, and anything with basil, Cagney’s favorite. Prices for a pint of seltzer will be about $5.
There will also be seltzer cocktails made with a 15-percent seltzer. These will be “uniquely garnished,” she says. “They’re way more than just club soda.” Prices for cocktails will be less than $10.
Summit will also offer wine and local beer.
Background: Three years ago, Cagney was 25 and says she had a “quarter-life crisis.” She quit her finance job in Colorado, and moved to the Lake Norman area where her parents live.
She then completed an MBA program at UNC Charlotte, where she designed the business plan for Summit Seltzery. While in school, Cagney worked at a handful of breweries and bars around Charlotte, including Sugar Creek and Primal Brewing.
Of all the jobs, she says, “My favorite job is bartending.”
On opening in a pandemic: Even before the coronavirus pandemic, opening a small business in a brand new industry is a challenge. Cagney received numerous rejections from banks on her small business loan, often because they just didn’t know what a “seltzery” was.
The project drew the attention of some investors, but Cagney wanted the business to be completely family owned. “I didn’t want to open at all if it wasn’t,” she says.
After about two years of work, Cagney secured a loan and started construction in March. Then coronavirus hit Charlotte.
[Related Agenda story: Edge City Brewery opens in the midst of a pandemic]
The seltzery opening is still on as planned, but Cagney is flexible with her timeline, depending on current guidelines and Charlotteans’ comfort levels. Ideally, she wants to open Summit in July.
Cagney also hopes to roll out seltzer crowlers and growlers as soon as possible to get a better feel for the flavors Charlotte wants.
“I hope this is something for someone to look forward to,” she says. “(Summit Seltzery) is the exact opposite of the apartment caves we’ve been quarantining in.”
[Related Agenda guide: The 21 most anticipated new restaurant, bar, and brewery grand openings of 2020]