Should I stay or should I go?

Area bottle shops blur border between bar and retail

By Kevin J. Gray

Photo: Local establishments The Barrel House an Ollie’s Place are changing the face of beer retail

Craft beer, with its reinterpretations of old styles and bold flavors, has changed the way Americans drink beer. It is also transforming the way retailers sell beer. While consumers can rely on grocery stores, carry-outs and drive-thrus to supply them with beer, two local businesses are actively changing the face of beer retail.

The difference between these two retail establishments and most is that they also function as bars. Most carry-outs have a C class liquor license, but D class licenses give owners an opportunity to sell for consumption and for retail sales.

The Barrel House 

The Barrel House started as an elegant solution to a business problem. Olive, an urban dive allows patrons to bring their own beer or wine. But when Olive opened four years ago, downtown Dayton was nearly a retail alcohol desert.

So, Olive-owner Kim Collett reached out to her cousin, Jeff Heater, and prompted him to start a new business venture—a high-end carry-out that could service downtown. The team secured a location across the street from the restaurant. Progress was initially slow, but the months spent getting the business launched have paid off.

The interior of The Barrel House is an ode to craft alcohol, from the rafters that mirror the shapely curves of barrels to the collection of growlers from around the world to the framed vintage beer advertisements that pepper the walls. Rows of beers and wines perimeter the shop, and a chalkboard lists the beers, wines and ciders on tap (with at least half of the beers being regional selections). Beer can be purchased by the taster and the glass, as well as by the howler and growler (32- and 64-oz. to-go vessels that patrons drink at the restaurant or at home). Couches at the front of the store give the establishment a modern day coffee house feel, a place where small groups can meet or telecommuters pound away on their laptops.

The initial goal is to promote carry-out sales. “We are a carry-out downtown,” Heater explains. “You don’t have to go to the suburbs.”

But the carry-out has morphed into one of the best gathering spots in Dayton: “It was going to be a bottle shop with growler fills and lounge area—someplace for people to wait for a table at Olive. There was no idea of on-site consumption, but when a full liquor license was available, we took it.”

Through this combination of onsite and retail sales, coupled with a comfortable and low-key vibe, Heater has created a much-needed community space downtown, where folks can gather after work or grab a pint before taking a growler, six-pack or bottle of wine home.

The Barrel House is located at 417 E. Third St. in Dayton and online at

Ollie’s Place

A large, round sign hangs above the double entrances of Ollie’s Place, the latest venture by veteran craft-beer retailer Mike Schwartz. Go through the door on the left and enter a well-managed maze of bottles, six-packs and cases. Hundreds upon hundreds of bottles line shelves and coolers. The selection rivals that of Schwartz’s other establishment, Belmont Party Supply, a retail shop in east Dayton that consistently rates best in Ohio and in the United States.

To the front of this side is the homebrew shop. Unlike bottle shops that dabble in homebrewing by carrying a few essentials but a slim selection of ingredients, Ollie’s homebrew supply section is as expansive as its bottle shop. This should come as no surprise to local homebrewers—Schwartz also owns Brewtensils, Miami Valley’s largest homebrew shop.

Enter Ollie’s from the door on the right and be transported to a completely different world, one that rivals the best beer bars in the area. An expansive dining room gives way to an even more impressive bar, with 60 taps and a mind-blowing whiskey menu. General Manager Gus Stathes, who has worked with Schwartz for more than three years and who has managed the development of Ollie’s, takes pride in his tap list: “We’ve got a lot of stuff on tap that a lot of other bars don’t have, or won’t put on.”
Stathes credits his relationship with smaller distributors, who can sell both draft and retail to Ollie’s, as helping make that possible. Additionally, Stathes has taken innovative steps such as a line cleaning system used every time a keg kicks and beer lines dedicated to single brands or styles to make the bar one-of-a kind.

In the end, it’s the combination of both doors that makes Ollie’s, named after Schwartz’s grandfather, a different kind of establishment.
“Let’s say you’re on the retail side and you see a beer you want to drink, and you want to drink it in the bar with your friends, we can do that,” Stathes explains. “Say you are drinking a beer on the bar side, you can peruse over on the retail side, with your beer in hand and maybe pick up a six pack of whatever it is you are drinking. Or, if that beer’s not available on retail, more often than not, you can get a growler.” As Stathes quips, “Think of it as the Cracker Barrel of beer.”

Ollie’s Place is located at 518 Miamisburg Centerville Rd. in Dayton and online at

Kevin J. Gray is Dayton City Paper’s Resident Beer Geek. A firm believer in all things balanced, when Kevin isn’t drinking craft beer, he’s hiking or biking to keep his beer belly in optimal shape. Reach Kevin J. Gray at

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