This article appears in the June issue of 400 Life.
Looking back on their first 10 years in Forsyth County, Rick Tanner said he is still blown away by the local support.
“It’ll be a 10-year anniversary of [opening in] Forsyth County, which has been unbelievably gracious and great to us in more ways than you can possibly imagine,” he said. “The people out here, the community and everything has been beyond our wildest dreams.”
When talking to the Tanners, a common theme is family, which should be expected in a family-owned business, but that has also extended to the regular customers who feel this is “their bar,” including those who have gone from dating to starting families.
Beer lovers in Forsyth County should be keenly aware of Cherry Street Brewing Co-op, which for years has served as the only local brew and whose founders even had to change local rules to make it a reality.
Since opening, the co-op’s restaurant and taproom have become popular gathering spots in Forsyth County, and owners of the company said it brings in so many customers that just about every night is a little different.
“Honestly, some nights it tends to be date night and other nights it tends to be here hanging out with your friends,” said Alisa Tanner, with Cherry Street. “It also becomes a destination, so when families and friends are in town, this is a place where people like to bring them and it ends up being a destination, they get to show off their favorite place and we kind of pride in being that ‘Cheers’ atmosphere that the bartenders know the guests that walk in.”
“You know when you’ve made it when the people here in the community consider this their brewery,” added Mike “CT” Chartrand, a partner with the company. “This is the community’s brewery.”
In 2009, at the then-recently opened Vickery Village, restauranteur Rick Tanner opened up Rick Tanner’s Grille and Bar, the 20th eatery under the name with CT since 1986, but since then, the restaurant has pivoted into something unlike any of its predecessors in term of name, product and the fact that he his running it with his son and daughter, Nick and Alisa. Tanner proudly refers to them as “the kids.”
“My daughter … she started working here while she was at Georgia State [University] and graduated from college for hospitality from the Mack School of business, then she comes and takes over operations, Nick’s got the brewery and Mike and I are hanging out here having fun,” the elder Tanner said.
Before opening the local restaurant, the family’s first plan was to purchase a brewery in Colorado, where Nick had fallen in love with home brewing beer while attending Colorado State University in Fort Collins.
When that didn’t work out, Rick decided on the current space and offered Nick a deal, “Double our sales, and we’ll build you a brewery.” Before brewing his own beer, Nick first wanted to make the restaurant a destination for already popular beers.
“He knew he was going to start making beer, but he wanted to get a beer program going here,” Rick said. “He would contact breweries across the country and he would find out only six kegs or eight kegs or 10 kegs of the coveted beers in the country were coming to Georgia. He would pre-buy, then let the distributor know that he has the beer coming in, which created a beer program here beyond belief. People were now driving 40 and 50 miles to come to get this beer because they could not get it anywhere else.”
Though requiring changes to state and local rules, Cherry Street opened on Dec. 12, 2012, or 12/12/12.
“In December of 2012, we opened with four beers on tap,” Nick said. “By the next summer, June of ’13, we had 12 different beers on tap that we were brewing. As the beer, with distribution, started spreading across the city of Atlanta over 2013 and 2014, the restaurant itself started getting a little, more or less, cramped with the influx of people coming for the beer as well as the food.”
The restaurant was soon popular enough that the family decided to expand next door, which operated under the Cherry Street name and was exclusively for adults.
“The Taproom itself allowed for a few things,” Nick said. “It allowed for us to be able to increase the selection of our beer, so we went from serving 12 Cherry Street beers in the restaurant to now serving 26 beers fulltime in the Taproom.
“The Taproom really allowed us to brew more styles of beer and serve at one time. The Taproom also allowed us to start events and private parties and things for the community that we never used to be able to do.”
Though Forsyth County and Vickery Village are each known for their family activities, a common complaint is the lack of nightlife and adults spots around town. The Taproom has changed some of that perception.
“The Taproom took on a life of its own being a space where adults could get away from the kids that our restaurant has been known for. Tanner’s restaurants are known to be family-friendly and very family-friendly for 33 years now. So, the Taproom added a new piece to the feel of Tanner’s because now there’s an adult space.”
In 2017, a third expansion opened the barrel room, which gave Cherry Street both more capacity for brewing and more space for events.
“It allowed us to increase are barrel-aged section of beer. We went from having 25 whiskey barrels filled with beer to about 100 barrels now. It also allowed us to have more private parties and events. Now we can host all kinds of things from birthday parties and office luncheons to rehearsal dinners.”
With all the expansions and Cherry Street’s growing popularity in the craft beer world, the family decided to focus more on that name than Tanner’s to lessen confusion.
“We decided, as a group, we would change the name of the location to be Cherry Street, so it would be one concept driven as a brewpub, which we are, and that’s why the front of the building is highlighted with ‘Home of Rick Tanner’s,’” Rick said. “So, we have all the Tanners’ food that everybody loves from all the years since 1986 here, but the menu going toward Halcyon will have some of that and will have the mainstay items, then they’ll be developing the approachable food.”
While the original isn’t going anywhere, Cherry Street will soon open a second location at Halcyon Forsyth, the upcoming mixed-use development in south Forsyth. Nick said when he first started brewing beer, he never envisioned coming back to Georgia, but now, can’t imagine a better place for the company than Forsyth County.
“When I moved back home to Georgia many years ago and we got the location brewing beer at Vickery Village, I thought for sure that the next location we opened up would be closer to Atlanta,” Nick said. “When the opportunity came a couple of years ago to stay here in Forsyth at this new development, it felt right to us. Staying here in this county is important to us.
“The people that we have built relationships with and gotten to know and the children and seeing them grow up, oh my word. We have [families] that she was pregnant and they had the kid and now to see him that he’s almost 10 years old, is just unbelievable.
Similarly, Rick says it’s been a blessing to see young employees go from having first jobs to moving on to college, professional careers and families and, of course, seeing his kids step up into their roles.
“What better way can it be to stay in touch with them, and they all come back,” Rick said. “A lot of them come back and they work the beer fest, and they have professional jobs, but they come back and volunteer. When they leave, I say, ‘You’ll be back.’
“But the most gratifying thing for me as a father is I get to work with my two kids and to see them develop and mature and grow into the business people that they are now.”