Downtown Johnson City brew news: Brewery coming while coffee bar moves locations

Tony Casey • Updated Sep 27, 2016 at 7:55 PM

Dick Nelson and Chris Cates have been brewing up a business plan for almost a year now to rearrange their downtown Johnson City businesses’ locations.

By the end of 2017, Cates’ brewing supplies store will open with a new taproom in Nelson’s coffeeshop, which will move in next door to Cates’ current location.

Cates is well known for his knowledge of the craft beer sciences, and since he and his wife Brandi Cates opened their current business, Edisonian Brew Shop, at 236 E. Main St., they’ve had their sights set on opening a brewery of their own at some point.

That time is now. Cates announced plans to move the brew supplies shop up a block to Nelson Fine Art Center, at 324 E. Main St., in the latter part of 2017. His lease will officially begin in March, and then the Cateses will go through the careful process of aligning all the codes and alcohol-related legalities before pouring their first craft beer. Along with their supplies, they plan to open their dream business, the Edisonian Artisan Ales brewery.

“I decided in 2014 that I was dead set on opening a brewery,” Chris Cates said. “I didn’t know how and I knew it was a pipe dream, but I was definitely going to figure it out.”

Focusing on what he calls “American farmhouse beers,” Chris Cates will operate on a two-barrel system to start. He’ll also be brewing up batches of sour beers, which are relatively rare in the Tri-Cities’ breweries. Sessional IPAs and saisons will help fill out the beer list.

“In Johnson City, it’s a niche that’s not been filled yet,” he said.

Chris Cates’ enthusiasm for the plan comes from his life in homebrewing and helping the homebrewers who come through his door. Being a part of his customers’ craft beer-making processes is exciting for him, and he’s happy he won’t be losing those relationships when he opens his tasting room and brewery.

“The brewery is going to be an extension of the beers I love,” he said.

With three other Johnson City-based breweries, Chris Cates’ said it will be his focus on brews not currently offered that’s going to get people in and out of his brewery. He’s purposely not aiming to make the craft beer styles his peers do well, but will seek to offer varieties that fall into the gaps in between.

Of course for Edisonian Artisan Ales to open up in the space occupied by Nelson’s Dos Gatos Coffee Bar, the coffee bar has to move. Nelson and his Dos Gatos team will be moving to 238 E. Main St., directly next to the Cates’ current location.

Dos Gatos will surely be up and running much sooner than when the new brewery opens, but Nelson is going to be helping prepare the 324 E. Main St. location for his new tenant, all while he prepares his 238 E. Main St. for his coffee bar. This is the spot previously held by Salon Allure.

Precipitating the move for Nelson is the recent success of the rebranded Dos Gatos. He felt it was the right time to give it a spot of its own.

“I had decided it was time for reinvention,” Nelson said.

Part of the reinvention of the coffee bar includes expansion of their Nelson's Nitro Cold-Brew Coffee, which has been a hot seller. Along with a standard cold coffee brew, Dos Gatos also offers a flavored variety. Both options are popular, and led to the development of a bicycle that travels to Johnson City and East Tennessee State University’s respective farmers markets to keep its guest caffeinated.

“We’re moving down because of the strength of our nitro and the coffee business overall,” Nelson said.

There are plans to expand on the nitro drink and how its availability. Expect more flavors on tap and more coffee syrups made in-house at Dos Gatos.

Dos Gatos currently operates from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., but to cater to the earlier morning crowd, Nelson plans to open an hour earlier. The shop will also incorporate more food in its day-to-day offerings. Nelson said a long-term plan he hopes to see come to fruition is to use the one-story building’s roof as expansion space, potentially opening a wine bar.

Nelson’s framing business in the Fine Art Center will remain, located behind Edisonian Artisan Ales. Nelson plans to get a different address and a new entrance for that business on Colonial Way.

Through its tenured history downtown, Nelson Fine Art Center has become well known as a gathering house and presentation space for local artists. The owner hosted art shows for the region at nearly all First Friday events over the years.

These, too, will continue in the Nelson Fine Art Center in a room behind Edisonian Artisan Ales. In his new location for Dos Gatos Coffee Bar, Nelson plans to have local art and art shows in the same capacity.

“Downtown Johnson City has been so good to us,” Nelson said about the years spent establishing his business and seeing his neighbors so frequently.

Email Tony Casey at [email protected]. Follow Tony Casey on Twitter @TonyCaseyJCP. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/tonycaseyjournalist.

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