Agave & Rye COO: ‘We want to be a part’ of Hamilton’s success

‘We’ve looked around in Hamilton and fell in love with the community. The people are awesome, the city is phenomenal,’ said EPIC Brand COO Chris Britt.

HAMILTON — Though it took a long time for the Agave & Rye project to begin, site work is well underway and the Chief Operating Officer of Epic Brands said they’re on target for a mid-2024 opening.

Chris Britt said they’re looking at the later part of the second quarter next year to open at 339 Main St., across from the newly opened Rossville Flats mixed-use development.

But the growth of Agave & Rye has been, in a word, epic, as their growth happened at a time when many in the country were cutting costs and staff, and halting expansion plans. Yvonne and Wade Sarber founded Agave & Rye as a mom-and-pop establishment in Covington, Ky. Then they decided to expand, and in the past four years, they’ve opened 15 more locations in five states.

Their 17th location will open this spring in Cleveland, and then Hamilton will be the restaurant’s 18th.

But since they opened the Liberty Center location in Liberty Twp. in October 2019, their customers from Hamilton had been wanting them to open a restaurant in the City of Sculpture.

“We’re Cincinnati/Covington based, so Greater Cincinnati is our home, and without the success of the surrounding metro area, we wouldn’t have 16 current locations,” said Britt. “We’re trying to take care of the communities that have supported us along the way, especially Hamilton.”

They announced plans in 2021, and despite some issues beyond their control that are now resolved, they’ve always been committed to the city, Britt said. They had recently applied for their liquor permit with the state.

“We’ve looked around in Hamilton and fell in love with the community,” said Britt. “The people are awesome, the city is phenomenal. It’s an underrated small business community and it’s just at the tip of the iceberg with the success and growth it’s going to see. We want to be a part of that success and we want to help drive that success.”

Pete Montgomery, with CMC Properties, the developer of Rossville Flats, has been using Agave & Rye as a selling point for the apartments that face Main Street. Standing out on a balcony before the complex opened, Montgomery told the Journal-News, “Imagine sitting here and seeing all this,” he said, specifically identifying the future Agave & Rye location across the street. “It’s going to be a great view.”

Agave & Rye has been aggressively expanding in southwest Ohio and in Kentucky, Indiana, Tennessee, and Alabama. The restaurant had been featured in Restaurant Hospitality Magazine and tapped as one of only 20 full-service restaurants worth watching by FSR Magazine. It was also voted No. 8 in the 2023 Restaurant Business Future 50.

But it comes down to sticking to their roots, which is why they’ve been successful, Britt said.

“A lot of companies, when they grow, they kind of steer away from their roots, or what got them there, and lose focus,” he said. “But we always make sure, and we’re a fully transparent brand with our 1,500 team members. We communicate heavily and make sure they feel valued and heard. No business is going to be successful if, the team members don’t buy into the purpose and the why of the business, and vice versa. If the business doesn’t buy in and take serious the purpose and the why of each individual that works for them, they might be successful short term but there won’t be any long term (success).”

About the Author