A recent trip to Bootleg Bucha on Niagara Street was a real eye opener. The kombucha company continues to grow by leaps and bounds, in myriad ways. According to co-owner Jeff Empric, the company just signed a deal with 13 new Wegmans stores, bringing the tally up to 25. They are also now in 28 Tops markets. All total, Bootleg Bucha is distributing to over 130 retail stores in NY and PA. Empric says that they are also happy to be rolling out their filling stations – 13 to date. “We have a new one at Ashker’s on Elmwood – it turns out that Ashker’s is reinventing themselves in the space after all. We have another new filling station at Cedars Bakery. The filling stations are proving to be very popular.”
Bootleg Bucha’s “filling stations” are akin to Kegerator systems, where people can fill up their growlers which makes “bucha” lovers very happy. Between Bootleg Bucha walk-ins (growler fill ups), the wholesale market component, and the addition of the filling stations, Empric reports that the company is producing 1500 gallons a week. A walk through their newly expanded facility is truly astounding, especially considering that it was only a few short years ago when I walked into Empric’s home kitchen, where he first showed me a giant pot with a gurgling scoby floating atop the fermenting tea. It’s hard to believe that the operation has managed to grow to such heights within an on old daylight factory on Niagara Street (also home to Resurgence Brewery) in such a short period of time. It just goes to show that with the right idea, combined with with a keen knowhow and determination, dynamic business models abound.
Altogether, Bootleg Bucha now occupies 10,000 square feet of space at their headquarters. Not only is the space impressive, so is the equipment that continues to be rolled out. Empric is proud of the fact that they have utilized the handiwork of numerous local companies which have helped them to expand, including Colgate Industries (makers of the custom tanks and stands) and Goodnature (makers of the cold-press juicers). To me, that kernel of information alone was worth the tour, as I was not aware that there was a company in Buffalo making these incredible industrial juicing machines. Empric told me that Ashker’s was leasing space in the building, and the two businesses were sharing the juicers. Aside from the new juicing, bottling, and brewing equipment, Bootleg Bucha is also now in possession of a ginormous walk-in cooler, where the sky is literally the limit when it comes to cold storage.
Aside from growing its kombucha business, Bootleg Bucha is researching other ways to capitalize on their prime location on Niagara Street. 2018 will be another banner year for this company, with plenty of stories to share with BRO readers along the way. So stay tuned, and drink your “bucha”!