The 2020 economic crisis is continuing to reshape Michigan’s food and beverage world. On Friday, September 11, Schramm’s Mead, a world-class honey wine producer in Ferndale, informed fans on Facebook that the company was in the process of closing down its Nine Mile tasting room and relocating operations to its nearby production facility on Livernois.
Schramm’s CEO Alyson Schramm Naeger told Eater by phone on Friday that it was a tough decision but a necessary one to preserve the business and maintain employee’s jobs going into 2021. “It’s super emotional, but I have to set that aside to stay focused on all of these people that I love that are counting on this business for their livelihoods and also their health and their safety,” she says.
Schramm’s is a family business that was established by Schramm Naeger’s father Ken Schramm who is highly regarded in the international mead community for authoring the 2003 guide to mead production called The Compleat Meadmaker. The company signed the lease at its Nine Mile address in 2012 and opened for business in September 2013 offering tastings, special bottle releases, and dinners. The space also served as the Schramm’s production facility up until 2015 when they expanded into the Livernois property. The family and since also acquired an orchard in Rochester Hills to produce “premium quality fruit.”
Schramm Naeger says that ever since the meadery first opened on Nine Mile, they knew that the space wasn’t a good fit. During events such as bottle releases there was never enough space for customers. When production moved to the Livernois facility, more space opened up in the tasting room, but it was still cramped when the meadery hosted dinners.
Since March, the space has been completely closed to customers and is only being used for curbside pickups. Schramm Naeger says that most of her family is considered at high risk for COVID-19 and several of the company’s employees were as well, so it was essential to limit operations to keep everyone safe. Some employees were offered jobs at the production facility or at the orchard in order to limit the number of people working in the smaller tasting room. Schramm’s added groceries to its menu of products to help provide customers with a safer alternative to going to the store during the height of the spring case spike and has continued to offer those services ever since.
Schramm’s will ride out the remainder of their lease on Nine Mile — it’s up at the end of 2020 — and continue to use it for curbside pickups and direct shipping of its still meads. Schramm Naeger says that distributing to other states and shipping meads has become a big part of the business during a time of perpetual pivoting. Once shipping licensing has been relocated to Livernois, the rest of the company’s operations can move to Livernois as well. Schramm Naeger plans to continue offering curbside service at that alternative Ferndale location.
“It’s sad and it’s also exciting knowing that there are probably also a lot of other businesses that are going through the same thing right now that are getting rid of spaces that don’t fit for them, or, even worse, businesses that are going out of business,” Schramm Naeger says. “But I hope we’ll be able to find a spot for our business that’s a better fit in the future and we’ll have more room for our pop up dinners and we might have a kitchen,” she says. “I’m trying to look to the future instead of getting too nostalgic about what we’re letting go of.”