Thursday, July 7, 2022

Not Your Average Beer Store: Earlybird’s Bottle Shop

Earlybird’s Bottle Shop owners and life-long friends, Sev Ayer and Earl Bunch. (WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

POQUOSON — With more than 200 breweries in the Commonwealth of Virginia and several dozen in Hampton Roads, local beer enthusiasts do not have far to go find their favorite style.

However, it can be difficult to get to craft breweries not in one’s region and harder still to find beer from said breweries in the grocery stores due to an individual craft brewery’s smaller distribution footprint.

Luckily for residents of the Hampton Roads Peninsula, they only have to go to the Earlybird’s Bottle Shop in Poquoson to find what they are looking for and the ability to discover hundreds of other beers.

Located on Wythe Creek Road, the shop, which opened this past August, is the brainchild of Poquoson natives and lifelong friends Sev Ayers and Earl Bunch.

The pair graduated from Poquoson High School in 2007 and long talked about starting a business together, ideally, in their hometown.

After high school and college, Sev worked in the automotive industry and Earl managed a drug store. During their off time, the two friends enjoyed drinking beer.

“We started trying craft beers because we got tired of drinking the same thing,” Sev said. “We started to love trying new things. We started to go out of our way to the southside or even Richmond to find what we were looking for. So we thought to open something in the middle, and it seemed that Poquoson would be a good spot for it.”

A lot of first time business owners are quick to talk about the obstacles and pushback they faced while setting up shop. However, Sev was quick to point out how Poquoson, as a community, gladly welcomed their shop.

“So far everyone has been really receptive and that is a really big deal to us,” Sev said. “The city had our backs from day one and that was a good feeling. We did not know what kind of feedback we would be getting opening up a beer store.”

Once Sev and Earl got the necessary backing from the local government, they spent months converting a 74-year-old building that once housed the Dare Barber Shop into the Earlybird’s Bottle Shop.

“We enjoyed it,” Sev says of the renovations process. “It was sense of pride getting the place ready. We did not have to do all to much. The place was built in 1947 out of oak and it has the aesthetic that we were looking for and we just worked off of that.”

Earlybird’s Bottle Shop on Wythe Creek Road in Poquoson (WYDaily/Ben Mackin)

Knowing that beer is not the only libation people are after, the proprietors pride themselves on having a healthy selection of wine, seltzers, ciders, and mead.

On top of beverages, the Earlybird has a wide array of grilling and cooking rubs as well as beer growlers and other drinking accoutrements.

As if that was not enough, Earlybird also sells art pieces on consignment from local artists.

“We are trying to showcase local artists and what they bring to the community,” Sev said. “We are not your typical beer store. We try to offer a little bit of everything.”

Going forward, Sev and Earl plan to open a tasting room in the back of the shop where customers will be able get growler fills of draft beer.

“There is a beer for every occasion,” Sev notes. “It seems like everyone who comes into the store has fun checking us out and seeing the selection and variety we have and ends up leaving happy. That is the name of the game.”

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