SOUTHINGTON — Despite recent closures of nearby restaurants in Plantsville, Hop Haus owner Mike Miller remains optimistic about the future and plans to expand on the success of his business by growing into other towns.
Pressing supply chain issues have caused price hikes in food and transportation for restaurants nationwide, forcing closures of smaller, family-owned restaurants. Despite that, Miller said he remains successful due to a loyal customer base and collaboration with other local businesses for their food and craft beer. Having recently begun plans to open another Hop Haus location in Berlin, Miller also mentioned looking to expand further.
The Salty Dog Tavern, which Miller opened in the former Tipping Chair Tavern space on Meriden-Waterbury Turnpike in Southington late last year, will be opening a second location in Plainville sometime in the near future, replacing the Plainville Hop Haus location, which moves to Berlin.
Hop Haus is still grappling with the same issues as the rest of the industry, though, which has caused margins to slim over the past year. Yet Miller remains confident about the future of his businesses due to strong community relations and advertising efforts.
“My margins are shrinking and shrinking. I make less and less money almost every month now. We also have been going up in price. We've been trying not to go up too much to (avoid hurting) our customers. We want people to keep coming in, but between small price increases and shrinking margins, it's definitely getting harder and harder for business,” Miller said. “But we've been doing a lot with advertising. Hop Haus is very focused on supporting local — whether it's local breweries, local farms, or just local charity organizations and different local sources around town. So all those people are very grateful for our support and they, in return, give us support.”
Hop Haus sources beer from local breweries — Alvarium and Five Churches Brewing in New Britain, 12% Beer Project in North Haven among many others — fostering a network of local businesses supporting each other. In the past they’ve also collaborated with organizations like Wing Addicts, a Connecticut-based group that sprang up during the pandemic that supports local restaurants by driving around the state and advertising their wings.
For Barbara Coleman-Hekeler, president of the Southington Chamber of Commerce, the success of Hop Haus and Salty Dog is built off solid community outreach and advertising. Miller’s locations for his new restaurants were strategic in that they filled a void in the market for a local gastropub, growing not only his business but the surrounding areas as well.
“Mike is a huge supporter of the Chamber and of the programming we do here. He's a huge supporter of many causes in the community,” Coleman-Hekeler said. “We're always thrilled to see our businesses that start here locally to be able to grow and establish in other communities as well, because when our surrounding communities thrive, obviously that helps support our community as well. So we're not myopic that way, we like to see those success stories.”
For the chamber, West Main Street in Plantsville and Main Street in Southington are elevated by the presence of local businesses, while Queen Street is where most of the chain brands reside. The loss of both Zingarella and Fireside on Main in February struck a significant blow, as both restaurants occupied significant tentpole properties that played a role in local community events like Halloween and Christmas in the Village. Though Mark Zommer expressed plans to fill the vacant Zingarella with a new tenant in the near future, plans for Fireside on Main are currently unknown.
Hop Haus still aims to remain a pillar in the Plantsville area, due in part to the continuing support of the patrons.
“We've maintained a lot of loyal customers over the years, and the customer base has just been growing and growing,” Miller said. “The Plantsville community's always been great to Hop Haus and having the other restaurants closed down around us was definitely a shame. … We were very good friends with all of them, and it's definitely bad to see good friends close their businesses.”
Correction: Hop Haus owner Mike Miller’s name was incorrect in an earlier version of this story.