Bissell Brothers Closing their Three Rivers location – Milo

Bissell Brothers Closing their Three Rivers location – Milo

Bissell Brothers – Three Rivers Location – Milo Brewery (photo courtesy of Bissell Brothers)

Bissell Brothers Closing Their Milo Brewery

Bissell Brothers took to their social media, as well as their website, and such, to post the following announcement:

We are writing with immensely heavy hearts to communicate some very sad news. Summer 2024 will be the last season of operations at Bissell Brothers Three Rivers. This has been the hardest decision we’ve ever had to come to grips with as owners of Bissell Brothers. We understand this will likely come as a tremendous shock and seem impossibly sudden, and in truth we are still coming to comprehend this reality ourselves. We’d like to take some time to outline the factors that have led to this position and how we’re planning to wind down operations with all the respect that the space, town and Team so deeply deserve.

The idea of a second location in our hometown began to crystalize in early 2017; beer and the landscape it exists within was in a very different place than it is today, and bringing some of our success back to our hometown simply felt right. However, we made the decision to open up BB3R knowing full well that it would be a huge undertaking and uphill battle. We were firm in our vision to bring an uncompromising and ever-evolving level of excellence to what we would offer Milo, in the same way we had built our name in Portland. As with opening any business, the move would be filled with risk, and absent of any guarantee of success or assurance of perpetuity.

Our long term goal was of course to eventually make Three Rivers a viable, self-sustaining arm of Bissell Brothers. We had no delusions that this could happen quickly, much less easily. We accepted the fact that we were going to have to effectively subsidize BB3R as it found its footing through income generated in Portland, with the eventual goal of it becoming profitable — as in sustainable — in its own right. Unfortunately, this hope has never come to fruition. With each investment and expansion of BB3R, always in pursuit of a sustainable future, the business itself became exponentially more costly to operate. Despite what always felt like our best efforts and likely has had the outward appearance of a thriving business, our Three Rivers location has always cost more to operate than it generated in income. While we were able to absorb this loss for the better part of the last decade, a variety of economic factors both internal and external to our business have regrettably made this impossible to continue. It’s with deep remorse that we’ve come to this realization. We’ve undoubtedly made plenty of mistakes in trying to bring this business into the black, and we have spent a great deal of time reflecting on those “what-ifs” while grappling with the truth of the “what ares”.

Like many breweries nationwide, our bottom line company-wide is as tight as it has ever been. The broader economic and inflationary conditions have been brutal for businesses of all types; food costs this year have skyrocketed, and people are drinking less beer than they have in decades, as the craft beer landscape has transitioned quite rapidly from an era of limitless exuberance to a more somber phase of maturity and saturation. Last year, the number of microbrewery closures more than doubled the number of openings, and that factor is only expected to increase in 2024. Expenses in literally all categories – payroll, cost of goods, transportation, maintenance, and utilities – have ballooned at a staggering rate. The harsh reality of this all means we can simply no longer afford to operate our second location. We say this in spite of every fiber of our being wishing it were not the case.

When we opened our doors in July 2018, what had felt like a pipe dream miraculously became a reality – a brewery now existed in our hometown. Built off the foundation of the work of Brittany Cunningham and Matty Robinson, our taproom quickly became a community hub. A concept built on excellent beer (and eventually equally excellent food), ultimately became a place about people. The personalities we’ve had the immense privilege of employing over the years are irrefutably the beating heart of BB3R and the reason we’ve amassed such a number of regular and loyal customers. Beyond Britt’s infectious, bubbly spirit, there’s Justin “The Wizard” Qualey’s one-of-a-kind dad jokes; Dustin Small’s understated intelligence and curiosity; Joe Robbins’ stoic confidence and ability that’s garnered national acclaim; Kyle Powell’s undying wit and work-til-you-drop determination; Lisa Kellndorfer’s kind, caring, and compassionate leadership; Beau Rounds’ endless good-natured versatility; Nate Travis’s unrelenting creativity and vibes; Bailey Strom’s oversized heart and attention to detail; Allie Towne’s contagious quirk and love of craft; and Caleb’s Robbins’ endearing, quiet drive. We are acutely aware of what each of these human beings have meant to this business and community. They are what made it happen and what made it all possible for as long as it has been; They made this entire labor of love worth doing for as long as we possibly could, and have NOTHING to do with this unfortunate outcome.

Naturally, our love for each of them is what has made facing this reality so much more brutal. Once our financial situation became apparent to us, we spent the majority of the last few weeks analyzing countless attempts at solutions that would allow us to keep BB3R open and our Team’s livelihoods intact. Unfortunately, each of these scenarios involved drastic paycuts, hugely detrimental changes to our service model and level of quality we provide, and significant layoffs. None of these “alternatives” felt like they did a shred of justice to what the team and community have built over the last six years. Instead, we made the incredibly difficult decision to offer these jobs for the remainder of the season, as it felt like the most equitable card in a horrible deck to provide them all the most time to figure out their next steps Rest assured, we will be doing everything in our collective power to help them land on their feet as gracefully as possible as they transition to the next chapter of their professional lives.

Though it might sound backwards at the moment, it also felt like the right thing to do for BB3R itself. What has grown out of a humble industrial building in need of repair is nothing short of miraculous. The memories made, friendships formed, and community fostered on the property are things we will be deeply proud of and grateful for as long as we live. We’re doing our very best to take on a “don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened” approach during this extremely difficult time. Anger, disappointment, or any other emotions from you are understandable, but what we do ask is you do not direct any of this toward our Team. They are the reason BB3R was possible at all and how it was able to sustain itself as long as it did. This summer is an opportunity to celebrate what happened here, thank these individuals for the myriad ways they have elevated and improved so many lives, and close this chapter with every ounce of love and compassion it began from.

Lastly, we’d also like to speak on the future of the location itself. Ultimately, we don’t have a crystal ball, and the only thing certain right now is that Bissell Brothers will no longer be running the operation as it currently exists. However, our sincere hope is that another individual or group will see the inherent value in the space that has been created over the last six years. We will not be “demolishing” anything, but instead will be leaving what’s in essence a turnkey brewery and restaurant. We’ll be beyond ready to sell/lease the building to any individual or group aspiring to carry on the spirit of the space our team has built, and we will do everything in our control to make this happen as smoothly and economically as possible if/when this presents itself. This is critical to lay out, as the emotion tied to all this is so immense. In bringing BB3R to our hometown, an energy and spirit was injected into a community that desperately needed it. We recognize that fact now the same as we did then, when most people that heard of our plans called us crazy. Over the last six years, we’ve become the third space for an entire region. The importance of what we mean to Milo has shown in the entire Three Rivers Team reaction to this news. Instead of being simply concerned about their own future, the collective was primarily concerned with the future of the community they have all played such a huge role in building and fostering. This sentiment makes this process infinitely more heavy for all of us; the idea of a second-life of sorts that’s able to carry the torch tied to so many human elements lifts our heart, and will do everything in our power to make this happen. We’d love to make promises here, but simply can’t. What we do have is a boatload of hope for the future there.

We’ve shed our share of tears during the course of reckoning with this reality, and there will surely be more to come. We can’t ask you to understand this decision right now or why we feel financially forced to make it, but we’ve done our very best to communicate those realities. In the meantime, please know that we’ve had nothing but the best intentions in daring to open this business in an area very few others would ever dream of. We will forever be indebted for you in taking a chance on us in the same vein as we took one on the town. Despite the end coming much faster than we anticipated, much less hoped for, it will be cemented as one of the most proud and joyous six years of our lives for as long as we’re on this Earth. From the deepest part of our hearts – Thank you.

We love you, Three Rivers. Forever and always.

-Noah, Peter, and Hester Bissell

The Milo Brewery

The Milo Brewery located at 157 Elm St, Milo, ME 04463 – also known as their Three Rivers location, or the Bissell Brothers Three Rivers Brewery. The location opened in July of 2018. Bissell Brothers itself was established in 2013.

For More Information on Bissell Brothers Brewing

The following comes via Untappd.

Bissell Brothers Brewing is a microbrewery from Portland, ME. They have 132 unique beers, and over 530,000 ratings, with a global average rating of 4.16 (as of 6.26.24). Their Untappd description reads: “Bissell Brothers was born out of a desire to make something from our deepest interests and passions that would become a separate entity; greater than the individual sums of its creators. We believe that great beer comes from a commitment to be constantly challenging the perceptions of what different styles of beers can actually become. The second we settle, the second we say that a beer has been taken as far as it can go, we start losing. The proverbial mountaintop exists only in our minds. Always be climbing, always be pushing forward. The next, and equally important commitment, is to the process. There is serenity to be found in even the most menial, repetitive task. There are always ways to improve yourself and your methods, hiding just below the surface. The parties, jokes, and fun we seem to be having? We have created our own world in which to reside, and we love sharing it with all those that want to partake. I promise you, there is no greater joy, professionally. The painfully fleeting span of the human life is much too short and precious to spend it being anything less than the best you can possibly be in your chosen vocation. We love the work we do, for its own sake. We spend every day trying to get better, and we treat the opportunity to give this beer to the people of Maine every week as the gift that it is. Thank you for drinking.”

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