June 7, 2024

Greeley business owner to open waffles-whiskey concept

GREELEY — Every day is not quite the same in the Estrin household, but it’s close. Matt Estrin’s daughters eat waffles for breakfast, and by the time the girls go to bed, he and his wife sit down with a nice taste of whiskey to settle in for the night.

For Estrin, owner of 477 Distilling and the Greeley Hatchet House in Greeley’s growing downtown, a new business concept was a no-brainer: waffles and whiskey, words he associates immediately with Oak & Maple Whiskey and Waffle Co. Oak for the oak barrels in which whiskey is aged, and maple for waffles.

“I love 477 Distilling, and it’s been really fun. My kids are excited to be small-business owners, but the reality is, my oldest daughter will not be able to work at 477 until she’s 21,” Estrin said. “So there’s been a part of me that really wanted to do something I could do with my kids, and they can work and make a paycheck. For me, this is representative of our family.”

Let’s back up a couple of months.

Estrin has been working quietly to open a second location of 477 Distilling at 123 E. Fifth St., in downtown Loveland. With higher lease rates there, he decided he needed a secondary concept there to bring in more money. That’s where Oak & Maple originated. Flash-forward a few months, he was still trying to get permits, and a Realtor friend suggested a recently vacated spot at 1640 Eighth Ave. in Greeley for the waffles and whiskey concept.

“I was trying to focus on Loveland, but I went and looked at it, and though this place is right next to the college, and as excited as I am to move to Loveland, I’m very passionate about Greeley and downtown,” Estrin said.

He brought his wife into the former Slushed businesses in The Boone at Maddie, which is just off 16th Street and Eighth Avenue.

“The ultimate litmus test is my wife, Trista,” Estrin said.  “When she has a bad feeling in her gut, it’s probably for a good reason. She came and checked it out, and said, ‘100 percent we should do it.’ For me that was a confirmation to move forward.”

The good thing about the new Greeley space is it is turnkey — it’s ready to go. And this is where his two daughters come in. They can’t wait to put paint to brush and redecorate the inside to get the concept out of the gate. The girls obviously can’t work at 477 Distilling, which is Greeley’s second craft cocktail bar. And the Greeley Hatchet House really only has one employee working at a time to coach hatchet-throwing and help people out like a concierge.

“This will allow us to have the opportunity for our kids to work and help,” Estrin said. “They’re going to experience it from day one, no doubt. They’ve experienced all of them from day one. But they were much younger when 477 Distilling opened six years ago. My oldest was 8 and youngest was 5. So they’re in a different stage of life now where they want to work and help.”

Waffle concepts are not new. The Waffle Lab food truck is based out of Fort Collins; and there is a Press Waffle Co. in Castle Rock. There are waffle franchises throughout the country, even.

“It’s not a new concept, but it’s definitely rare,” Estrin said. “But another concept of Waffles and whiskey? I don’t know that there are.”

He is still in the concept stage of the business, in which he is building the menu. There will be four sections of waffles: Sweet, Savory, Waffle Sandwiches and, wait for it — a healthy waffle section. The sweet waffles are obvious, with fruits and sweet toppings and the like. On the savory side, there’s the traditional chicken and waffles, and a cornbread waffle that will be served with chili, for example.

“We can use a waffle iron like a panini press,” Estrin explained of the waffle sandwich section. “We’ve got one that will have brie cheese and a fig spread with bruschetta and arugula; we have a three-cheese grilled cheese with tomato soup for dipping, a jalapenos popper with cheese and jalapenos.”

The healthy section is a bit of a stretch, Estrin explains. But he hopes this section will offer some options, for example, for high-protein offerings, as well as salads with waffles.

“I’m big into distance sports, so we’re thinking like a protein waffle with bananas and almond butter. We’ve got several friends who are allergic to gluten, so we’ll offer gluten-free waffles.”

Being a member of the Greeley Area Chamber of Commerce board and the Downtown Development Board, Estrin said he is thrilled to be able to bring a new concept to Greeley.

“I really believe in downtown Greeley and the plan we have,” Estrin said. “I sit on boards and am privileged to be in meetings about the future of downtown. I’m really excited to help move the needle for people to get excited.”

While this is going on, he has not forgotten about Loveland.

“The day I signed the lease in Greeley on the waffle place, I got a call from the landlord in Loveland, and he said construction starts tomorrow. We’re going to do them both. It’s going to be 477 and Oak and Maple both opening in the same location in Loveland. It’s going to feel like a food truck inside of a building. It will feel like 477, the bar, with the tables and a loungey bar feel. On the west wall of the building, we will have a different feel, almost like a food truck window inside the space.”

He plans to open the Greeley store in August to coincide with college students coming back to town. The Loveland location may open in the fall, he said. Permitting for the concepts has taken a little longer there.

“The nice thing is, both concepts will be done. The cocktail menus, the standard operating procedures. We’ll not be starting from scratch in Loveland.

And down the road, franchising isn’t out of the question.

“I said I will walk through any door until I feel like the door closes,” Estrin said. “Clearly, I’m not afraid of expansion, and so I think for all these, we’re going to build out Oak and Maple in a way that is repeatable and can do more. It will be a goal to see multiple locations happening. The sky’s the limit, but we’ll build it out in a way that’s repeatable and easy to pop up somewhere. We have the blueprints already.”

For Matt Estrin, owner of 477 Distilling and the Greeley Hatchet House in Greeley’s growing downtown, a new business concept was a no-brainer: waffles and whiskey.

Sharon Dunn
Sharon Dunn is an award-winning journalist covering business, banking, real estate, energy, local government and crime in Northern Colorado since 1994. She began her journalism career in Alaska after graduating Metropolitan State College in Denver in 1992. She found her way back to Colorado, where she worked at the Greeley Tribune for 25 years. She has a master's degree in communications management from the University of Denver. She is married and has one grown daughter — and a beloved English pointer at her side while she writes. When not writing, you may find her enjoying embroidery and crochet projects, watching football, or kayaking and birdwatching on a high-mountain lake.
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