BRATTLEBORO — Whetstone Station wants to go big for its decade anniversary.
The owners, who have plans for parties on Monday and July 9, are in the process of rebranding and remodeling.
“We’ve been waiting for our grand opening for 10 years,” co-owner David Hiler said. “We never actually had a grand opening, because once we opened the doors, it was just so busy that, you know, we just kind of went from there. So this is our grand opening and our 10th anniversary party. We didn’t want to blow it again.”
Now, names will be changed to Whetstone Brewery Co. and The Station at Whetstone Beer Co. New visuals and branding will celebrate the owners’ “common love of brewing up adventures through beer, travel, shared experiences and the great outdoors,” states a news release.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Hiler said, the business shifted its focus to beer and became “true to our core.”
“That’s really what our core product is, and that’s what we want people to know,” he said, believing the business owner had gotten sidetracked by having lavish menu items, big dinners and five-page menus. “The real true essence of what we do is make great beer.”
When the business reopened during the pandemic after the shutdown, a lot of customers didn’t realize there had been a change. They were looking for a server or host, Hiler said. But the business had implemented QR codes, which he called “a tremendous convenience,” as customers could order over their phones.
Now, the plan is to celebrate the change to cafe-style service with a new look in the downstairs seating area and on the labeling of beer cans. Hiler said the new designs double down on the train concept.
“We’ve had a lot of customers that come in here looking for train tickets sometimes, because there’s no train station,” he said. “So we felt like we really needed to embrace that concept a little bit more.”
Being at the confluence of Whetstone Brook and the Connecticut River, the news release states, the business originally was “designed to pay homage to the building’s role in Brattleboro’s bustling railroad industry.” Included were elements of the original train station, such as a round radiator from the base of a column in the old station and interior ticket window, featuring a photo of a switchman on the tracks behind the building.
The rebranding effort includes logos designed with what Hiler calls a “statepark feel” and “a little throwback to the ‘50s” when a lot of posters of stateparks were around. He sees the Whetstone as as piece of Americana.
For the project, Daimian Lix of Creative Catalyst Communications in South Newfane handled all branding and packaging design.
Downstairs is being remodeled to be reminiscent of a train station and more like a brewery than a restaurant. Hiler said the menu will compare to one you might see at a cafe on a train.
“For instance, if you were in the cafe car, it’s going to have the items that made us famous, items that people have been coming here for years, the things that people liked the most about what we did — our burgers or chicken sandwiches or poutine or beef tips,” he said. “Those items will remain, but we’re going to cut away a lot of the stuff that really wasn’t true to who we were.”
The brewery will have its 12 core brands of beer that will be featured all the time and a brand new experimental brew system to pump out different beers to be served for a limited time only in the Whetstone’s Bier Garten. If some of the new beers turn out to be great, Hiler said, they will become one of the constant brews.
This past fall, Hiler and his partners opened River Garden Marketplace on Main Street in the former Strolling of the Heifers space. The bar, restaurant and venue space features many New England beers that customers missed when things changed at the Whetstone.
River Garden Marketplace’s food menu will continue to rotate through different specials based on a theme every month.
“We anticipate next month’s theme to be sort of a throwback to some of the items from Whetstone’s past,” Hiler said.
Hiler and his partners also own Kampfires Campground, Inn and Entertainment in Dummerston. A Whetstone Station food truck is set up on site, where mini golf, swimming and ice cream are available.
Kampfires and River Garden Marketplace both offer live music. The latter hosts a weekly open mic.
Hiler said the business has exceeded all of the owners’ expectations, and they look forward to celebrating the past 10 years. He said he’s “surprised we’re still here, after everything we’ve been through.”
“But I think Tim and Amy would agree,” he added, referring to co-owners Tim and Amy Brady, “we as a partnership are a great team. We enjoy working together. We enjoy expanding what we do together. Sometimes I wish we’d slow it down a little bit, but we’re having too much fun to slow down.”
Designs on the beer cans incorporate elements from adventures of each of the owners’ lives. Also, the logos on the cans can be peeled off and used as a sticker.
Tim Brady imagined the custom labels, which were developed over a yearlong process with a label manufacturer.
“We spend a lot on printing custom can labels, which nearly always just end up in a recycle bin,” he said in the news release. “I thought, there’s got to be a way to make the label useful beyond simply showcasing the beer on the shelf. Now when you purchase any of our cans, you get a unique sticker for free.”
The co-owners met for the first time on one of their “adventures” at a hospitality conference more than a decade ago.
Nick Moorhouse of Moorhouse Made, a craftsman working out of HatchSpace in Brattleboro, created the new sign outside the Whetstone and new laser-cut tap handles. He used white natural wood for the sign, which took about 15 hours to make.
“It’s nice at the HatchSpace having a big workshop,” he said, estimating the sign to be about 7 feet wide and about 5 feet tall. “So having that big space to work in was real helpful and also helping hands to have it moved around. It weighed a little over 200 pounds.”
Moorhouse called collaborating with the Whetstone crew a “real positive” experience.
“I just had a blast working with everybody, getting to create something that should be around for a while,” he said. “It’s pretty rewarding.”
From 6 to 10 p.m. Monday, the Whetstone Station will host a new brand launch and makeover reveal party with Signal Pine performing live at 7 p.m. Offerings also include karaoke, snacks, swag bags for the first 100 guests, cake and other surprises.
From 5 to 9 p.m. July 9, Kampfires will host the official Whetstone anniversary party with food and games. Shantyman and Lush Honey will play live music.