Goleta-based brewing company opens on State Street
In 2015, Josh Ellis was one of the five people that went all in on opening M. Special Brewing Company in its first location in Goleta.
After the success there, Mr. Ellis and the other owners knew they wanted to expand and finally acquired a new location in downtown Santa Barbara last year.
They were excited to open in 2020, but the pandemic shifted their plans.
“Sometimes you dictate the situation and sometimes it dictates you and that’s what happened with this location,” Mr. Ellis said.
“COVID put a big hit on our revenue, so we were kind of forced to make a decision about whether or not we wanted to walk away from that project and leave all that money on the table that we invested already, or if we wanted to try to proceed and push through.”
The crew chose the latter, went all in one more time and it has paid off.
“We’d already come this far and it was an act of faith, but we really believe in our people and our brand and we just decided we wanted to push on forward,” Mr. Ellis told the News-Press.
M. Special opened its second location on Sept. 9 at 634 State St. and it has already received some positive feedback within its first two weeks.
Mr. Ellis, the company’s brewmaster in addition to being an owner, has heard a lot of the positive reviews having been at the location almost daily.
“The beer’s great, the food’s great and my favorite feedback is that people really feel like we captured the Goleta vibe at the location,” he said. “We didn’t clone it, it’s not the exact same thing, but it feels really good to know that there’s a little continuity because Goleta’s location is what made this all possible.”
Mr. Ellis was also quick to give a shoutout to his staff that has made the opening of the new location go off with only minor speedbumps.
“I have to tip my hat to our team. Megan, the operating manager, has done a fantastic job of organizing and getting that place going and the staff has really done a good job of getting the policies and procedures in place and executing on them,” he said.
“And I’m really proud to say that we’ve been really really busy since we have opened.”
While the pandemic has certainly made life harder for so many, M. Special has experienced at least one good thing in recent months.
Because the pandemic pushed back it’s original opening date, the new State Street location opened exactly five years after the Goleta location opened on Sept. 9, 2015.
“That is pretty crazy to think about,” Mr. Ellis said with a laugh.
Knowing that they wanted to expand, Mr. Ellis said that the owners were very selective in picking the right location. He said they probably went through over 100 locations before finally settling in on the State Street location.
“The reason we did that was because we had just done so well in Goleta and we were so successful that we really felt like we didn’t want to make a misstep on our second location, but this particular property really fits the bill for us,” Mr. Ellis said.
With restaurants not being able to operate indoors due to the novel coronavirus, many places have shifted to outside seating. Luckily for M. Special, the new location has a ton of space outside.
“Sometimes, it is better to be lucky than be good,” he said with a laugh.
“It’s a ton of space, nearly 4,000 square feet and we just always have a lot of patio space, that’s been a trademark of our Goleta location. Drinking beer in Santa Barbara is what we have become known for and when we saw that patio we just fell in love with it.
“We had no idea that it was going to be critical retail space in this COVID-era, so that’s just a case where we got lucky and we will take it.”
M. Special, like most breweries and other similar brands in its industry, has faced some challenges. For one, the cost of CO2 has more than tripled, while shipping has also steadily increased, according to Mr. Ellis.
Though he has become somewhat of an expert on small business loans, Mr. Ellis is thankful he gets to continue to do what he loves — making beer.
“There’s a lot of stuff that’s gone into it, but we all kind of try to take it in stride and I love making beer. I try to remind myself I did this because I love making beer, so I try not to take the little snafus that come along too seriously,” he said.
He is also proud to be able to provide a safe, outdoor option to patrons, allowing them to escape whatever pressures they may have.
“It’s really rewarding. The reality is for so many people in all walks of life, being holed up in your house takes its toll after a while. People need a social outlet so it’s really nice to be able to provide that,” Mr. Ellis said. “The other thing that’s been really nice is how respectful our customers have been about following rules and wearing their masks.”
Mr. Ellis admitted it’s hard to look too much into the future given the pandemic, but hopes that the brand can continue to make strides and even open another location soon.
According to their license, they can open up to five locations.
“I spent a lot of my life trying to be proactive and I spent a lot of the COVID-era just reminding myself that the world’s going to change again tomorrow, so stay open minded and flexible,” he said. “But we are definitely in a mode right now where we want to see this thing through because it is critical to our long-term success as a company.
“If we can get there and get past this we can expand even further.”