What started out in a kitchen has turned into 9000 sq. feet. Heather Lucas, Jeff Empric and Todd Salansky have been making kombucha tea since 2015 and now they are going to face their biggest expansion yet. When their business Bootleg Bucha became too big to operate out of a home, they moved into the basement of Horsefeathers for eight months. Then, Bootleg Bucha moved in to its 1250 Niagara Street location a year ago at the end of August. Now, they have big plans to expand their kombucha making business, to keep up with the demand for their products.
If you don’t know what kombucha tea is, it is a blend of green and black tea which is fermented by a Symbiotic Colony of Bacteria and Yeast, or a SCOBY. The SCOBY sits on top of the brewed tea for three weeks providing it probiotics, b vitamins, and amino acids, resulting in a low calorie, low sugar, low carb, refreshing drink. Some people may be hesitant to try it because it sounds so different, but after one sip your whole mindset will change, at least it did for me. I tried the Prickly Pear and Piña Colada, and I was not disappointed. I’m told the kombucha drinks are a great mixer for liquor, such as rum, or even mixed with beer, as Resurgence Brewery serves. Even though kombucha tea is fermented it has been cleared as a non-alcoholic drink, a problem Bootleg Bucha faced and overcame last year.
This expansion is going to mean a lot to Bootleg Bucha including additional space for eight fermentation tanks, a bottling line, a huge walk in cooler, and a brand new kitchen. The employees are especially excited for the bottling line because they currently have one table to hand-bottle every single drink produced, and they say “it stinks.” Here’s a video of the hand-bottling process. Bootleg Bucha operates at full capacity, or as Vice President of Product Development Heather Lucas explained it, every ounce made is “flying out the door.”
Fans of this local kombucha business better get excited, because with the expansion, the flavors for distribution will increase from six to ten, and gallons per week will increase from 1200 to 3000. This half a million dollar project will all happen within a space increase of 3000 sq. feet to 9000 sq. feet, a cooler four times the size of their current one, and increase from nine to 14 employees.
“We are so out of space here, we’re just on top of each other at the moment,” Lucas said. Another goal coming along with the expansion is to become organically certified by the end of 2017. Bootleg Bucha already uses many local and organic ingredients, and they already have almost 40,000 pounds of organic fruit secured for the new year.
Something likely to come along with this expansion is the enhanced presence in local stores and breweries. Already present in Resurgence Brewery on tap, and partnering with local events, Bootleg Bucha can be found in over 100 locations in NYS, including but not limited to every Wegmans, Tops, Feel Right Fresh Market, and the Lexington Co-op on Elmwood and Hertel. Bootleg Bucha can also be found selling and giving samples at local festivals such as Wines in the Wild, Veg Fest, and the Elmwood Avenue Art Festival.
Open seven days a week, with eight flavors always on tap, Bootleg Bucha might be your next obsession. “Our retail counter is usually pretty busy, people really like to come in and fill up with the extra flavors that we have and they can’t get anywhere else,” Lucas said.
Bootleg Bucha has 50 different flavors constantly rotating on tap and fills 16oz bottles for $4, 32oz for $9.50, and a 64oz growler for $16 after you purchase their reusable bottles for $2 or their growler for $5.
You can even pay in advance for a “KombuchaShare” where you receive a 32oz bottle to have filled up every week for 14 weeks – cost is $106 total, saving you almost $30 in the end. You can also save money by learning how to brew your own kombucha, a class taught by co-owner/head brewer Jeff Empric. The next class will take place August 14 from 6:30pm to 8 pm and costs $30, which includes 1 gallon glass jar, starter tea, tea, organic sugar, cheese cloth and scoby.
Bootleg Bucha | 1250 Niagara Street | 716-768-8302
Monday-Friday: 9-7 | Saturday: 9-5 | Sunday: 11-3 | Closed Major Holidays
It’s always a fun time with Bootleg Bucha on hand – especially when goat yoga is underway!