Spotlight on New Fenway Brewery: Cheeky Monkey
October 19, 2017
In August, Yelling Mule designed Cheeky Monkey’s website, so I’d heard the name. Recently in the Fenway area, I saw them again, right next to Loretta’s, with Red Sox hotdog vendors hanging around outside and Fenway Park itself within a baseball throws distance away. Similar to our Boston app series, I thought it’d be good to chat with Emily Tourtillotte, Cheeky Monkey’s Digital Marketing Coordinator, about what its been like starting a business in a prolific area of Boston, how its been handling the business’s social media in the digital age, and what sets Cheeky Monkey, a brewery, apart from its Lansdowne neighbors. Spoiler: Not only is Cheeky Monkey different from Lansdowne pubs, but it’s actually different in one key way from every other bar in the United States today.
But let’s back up a bit. Kevin Troy is credited with coming up with the name and concept of Cheeky Monkey. He’d also been the previous owner of another nightclub in the same location, called Tequila Rain. As Emily explained to me, “With the name Cheeky Monkey, we’re going off the definition that a person contains an incredible amount of awesomeness; there’s sarcasm, fun, and it represents what we have going on in the venue with decorations, and the look of it.”
She said that the timing made sense: Tequila Rain was outdated, and Cheeky Monkey was the next natural progression for Kevin and his team. Plus, Kevin knew that breweries are increasingly popular today, and thought the location couldn’t be better for it.
So what does Emily think about starting a business in Boston, and getting the word out? “Boston’s very small and tight-knit, so once you get the word out about having a new business and it gets around with word-of-mouth, a lot of people find out about it and they’ll stop in,” she said. “So we feel good about Boston. Everyone knows what’s going on.” I think we can all agree with that. I’ve seen Boston restaurants rise in fame overnight from word-of-mouth alone, and half of those mouths could be of people I know. It’s pretty empowering when you think about it.
Although I was already aware of Boston’s culture, I was very curious about Lansdowne’s particular sub-culture. I could see it going two ways: I could see Lansdowne bars having their hands full with so many Sox fans that they really don’t care one way or another if a new kid moves into the block… the “more the merrier,” and all that, in regards to bar competition.
But I could also see it going another, more cynical route, where bars compete ruthlessly for customers, constantly trying to nudge one another out of the way.
But Emily vehemently denied this. “Lansdowne Street is supportive. I mean, we’re all on Lansdowne basically, right behind Fenway, so you obviously get the Red Sox crowds during the season, but every bar offers something different. So it’s not competitive; we’re kind of all there for each other, and we play off each other.”
Okay, okay. You’ve all been patient, so I won’t withhold that mysterious differentiating factor about Cheeky Monkey from you any longer. Emily went on to tell me, “Our beer is brewed on site, which is back in our lower area. We have four brewing tanks that brew our beer, and then we also feature these copper-holding tanks that are on our upper bar, and those are actually the first in the United States to be in a bar. Those hold all our beers; once our beer is brewed, we directly transport it into those tanks, and it’s the freshest way to serve beer, that’s not from an actual right-out-of-the-brewery tank.”
Emily said the most challenging hurdle for her was just waiting on everything. For instance, she said, “We couldn’t go live with our website until we had venue photos, but we couldn’t take venue photos until everything was complete and construction was done, and if something delayed us, then that pushed everything back.”
I suppose after hearing this, I wasn’t too surprised to hear that Emily’s happiest Cheeky-Monkey moment was, “Seeing it all come together; just the process of getting everything done and seeing the final product.”
So what about starting a business in the digital age? Of course, it’s a bit of a Catch-22: Having a website and being on social media allows businesses to get their names out to more people than they ever could’ve before; but on the flip side, practically all businesses see the value of this, so it can be overwhelming to compete for online real-estate and get any special attention.
Emily agreed. “It’s both easier and harder in the digital age to open a business. It’s harder to be seen now, but it also makes things easier because people can access us so easily. You type in ‘Cheeky Monkey, Co.’ on Google, and everything pops up right there, so it’s easy to access information and know about an opening. But, sometimes it is hard to not get lost with everything else online.”
She did tell me they had a few billboards put up in Allston and Brighton, and a few ads in magazines like the Improper Bostonian. So never-fear, old-fashioned advertisers–physical ads are not completely dead; but for the most part, she says, it’s all digital now.
So what’s in-store for the future of Cheeky Monkey? “I see it thriving, getting bigger, having different varieties of beer offered,” Emily said. “I see big crowds of people who come in for beer, and to play games with friends, and to catch games on TV. On weekends, I see it being a nightlife spot. I think it’s something new in the Fenway area that I think people are going to love.”
I think she’s right. Cheeky Monkey is open every day of the week, by the way: Mon-Fri from 5pm to 2am, and weekends from 12pm to 2am.
Next time you’re at a Sox game–ooh, too soon?–or in the area, check it out, and remember to tell your Boston friends, now that you know how much power word-of-mouth can have.
*Photos courtesy of Christopher Huang Photography
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