Erik Lars Myers will be able to sleep now, even if he doesn’t know what’s next in his professional life.
On Wednesday, Myers, the founder and CEO of Mystery Brewing Company announced the business will close next week after seven years in business.
“Orange County is definitely challenging to work in,” Myers said. “But it’s really a matter of the wrong things happening at the wrong time. It’s a great space and it’s very well supported. I still think if we had different luck a little bit earlier in our process, we would be able to sustain a business in Hillsborough. What we’ve had over the last couple of years is a series of events not in the right order for us.”
The brewery’s house band, the Wiley Fosters, will play a final show on Saturday. It’s final day of business will be October 31.
Myers says the biggest hindrance was a change in the company’s distribution structure. There’s more beer trying to make it onto grocery store shelves. In 2016, Mystery lost its placement in Harris Teeter and Food Lion grocery stores. At its peak, Mystery was moving 4-6 cases per week to several local Harris Teeter locations, while other locations beyond the Triangle purchased one case per month.
While Mystery pushed hard on packaged distribution over the course of 2016, they were moving several hundred cases per month to grocery stores.
“We’re nowhere near that now,” Myers said. “That alone made a really big dent in what we had in terms of operating capital. There’s a lot more competition for that space. Over time, we lost that shelf space. Between the two of those, we lost nearly 200 stores across the state. That’s a lot of business that we were never able to gain back. That was the real turning point.”
Mystery Brewing opened in 2012 following a Kickstarter campaign. They operated a warehouse on Dimmocks Mills Road and a brewpub on South Nash Street. In 2017, Myers estimates that Mystery brewed 1,200 barrels.
Nash, a native of Maine who moved to North Carolina in 2003 as his wife completed her Ph. D at UNC, questioned whether Hillsborough can support a brewery because of an extra beverage tax, higher water costs and high rent.
“I think it’s less about breweries than it is about foot traffic,” Myers said. “I don’t really consider the breweries in Chapel Hill to be competitors. I’m good friends with the guys in Carrboro and Chapel Hill. We’ve always had a really supportive network. I do feel like Hillsborough suffers from the stigma that it’s really far away. Let’s face it, it’s a comparatively more expensive town to do business in. Anybody whose done business here will tell you that. It’s definitely a more challenging atmosphere. But it’s certainly not impossible.”
Myers describes Mystery as a passion project that has been stressful to close. He informed his 26 employees earlier this month of plans to close. Once he closes Mystery’s doors on Tuesday, Myers says he’s looking forward to getting his weekends back.
“Once everything is wrapped up here, I’m going to sleep for a little while,” Myers said. “Then I’ll figure out what happens next. If that’s in Hillsborough, that would be really great because I really do like being here every day. If it’s not, I’ll probably come back and have a beer.”