Busch Heir Details Business Plan to Keep Grants Farm in the Family

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Grants Farm Kraftig

Who will control the future of beloved Grant’s Farm remains far from clear. Long owned and operated at a loss by the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, the tourist attraction’s fate has been muddied since the brewery’s sale to InBev in 2008.

The option of it becoming a national park has been explored, the St. Louis Zoo has proposed buying the farm, and now one of six siblings engaged in a dispute regarding the property’s future, has released his business plan.

Billy Busch founded the William K Brewing Co. in 2011. The company brews just two American lagers, Kräftig lager and Kräftig light. Sales volume has reportedly increased steadily, with distribution expanding. Kräftig is currently brewed in LaCrosse, WI. Past plans have included a large brewing facility in St. Louis when sales volume justified the investment.

The just released plan for the 198-acres of Grant’s Farm would include offices for Kräftig, which is currently located in nearby Brentwood. A small beer brewing facility, but not large scale production, would be installed in a converted barn, shown below. All future options made public to this point would largely preserve the attraction as it is today, including free admission and free beer. All options would also leave the Busch home and surrounding 22 acres in family hands.

Grants Farm{Grant’s Farm sits on 198 acres in the St. Louis County municipality of Grantwood Village}

The zoo is prepared to pay approximately $30M, funded by a $27M gift from Anheuser-Busch. The zoo has said it would only take on the property if St. Louis County residents pass an increase in taxes to fund its operation, estimated at as much as $8M annually. The offer by Billy Busch has been reported to be $24M.

Currently, the six heirs, children of Gussie Busch and his third wife Gertrude, to the property are in disagreement regarding the best long term plan for Grant’s Farm. A majority believe that zoo ownership best guarantees the attraction will stay open and free to the public. Billy Busch believes his father most wanted the farm to remain family-owned. According to the Post-Dispatch, the zoo has expressed interest in leasing land if the site remains with the family.

The zoo itself purchased land across Interstate 64 from its 106-acre existing site in Forest Park and has planned a 19-acre expansion. That effort will take years to complete and may include a hotel, parking facilities, additional exhibition space, and a gondola to transport visitors above the highway.

While the disagreement sits in St. Louis Circuit Court, the six reportedly continue to try and find consensus. Those favoring zoo ownership have in the past expressed concern that Kräftig and Billy Busch did not have enough resources to ensure the future of Grant’s Farm.

Grants Farm Kraftig2

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Highlights of the multi-year plan for Grant’s Farm released by Billy Busch:

Phase One/Year One

• Maintenance: $1.3 million would be spent to bring Grant’s Farm “up to the quality standards my father demanded.” It includes clean-up, painting, and various building repairs designed to maintain and preserve the “charm and beauty” of Grant’s Farm’s German architecture, the historic Bauernhof, its exquisite stables, Carriage House, and courtyard, and out-building improvements.
• Free Admission: Continued free admission to the park and family activities, such as the free tram rides through Deer Park, animal shows and exhibits, and interacting with more than 900 animals, from exotic birds and baby goats to camels, kangaroos, elephants, burros, and majestic Clydesdales.
• Sponsorships: Busch would introduce corporate sponsorships and corporate-sponsored events, which have always been denied due to AB and InBev’s exclusive lease agreements through the years.
• Year-Around Operation: Grant’s Farm would stay open year-around, weather permitting, versus just six months a year as it does now.
• Management: Grant’s Farm would continue to be professionally managed.
• Employees: Busch would offer continued employment for existing Grant’s Farm employees, many of whom have been there 15-30 years or longer.
• Grant’s Cabin: President Ulysses S. Grant’s Cabin would be preserved at its current location.
• Free Beer: Free beer sampling would continue for people 21 years of age and older.
• Enhanced Food Concessions: Concessions would be improved by providing a greater selection of refreshments and German-styled food. Small shops also would sell meats, cheeses, pastries, etc.
• Merchandising: Grant’s Farm would enhance its merchandising by offering a wider array of quality merchandise and gift items consistent with the image of Grant’s Farm.
• Holiday Festivals and Special Events: Busch also would introduce attendance-building festivals, intimate acoustic music concerts, and special events, especially around key holidays.

Phase Two/Years 2-3

• Busch Family Legacy: Busch’s plan calls for the commissioning of life-sized bronze statues of his mother and father, Gertrude and Gussie Busch — him laughing and smiling with several baby elephants and her riding a coach or with her favorite horse — “prominently displayed for all to see.”
• Busch Family Theater: A small theater inside the Bauernhof would show video vignettes reflecting the family’s history and its contributions to the St. Louis-area and the American brewing tradition.
• Family Photo Exhibit: Family photos of the siblings, their parents, grandparents, and other Busch family members would be housed inside a permanent exhibit in the Bauernhof.
• Playground: The plan calls for the construction of a children’s playground that would include a replica of “Christina’s Playhouse,” (named for the Busch siblings’ sister who died in a car accident at the age of 9), and a jungle-gym, reminiscent of the forts the Busch boys made and played in as kids.
• Pavilion: A new, 10,000 sq. ft. Busch Family Pavilion would be constructed in the architectural style of the Bauernhof, and available for year-round use for family reunions, corporate picnics, etc.
• Bees: The addition of a honey bee colony exhibit to help educate children and the public as to the importance of our struggling bee population nationwide.
• Garden: A large vegetable garden would be developed near the playground area to help educate children how food is grown and harvested. It also would reintroduce farming back to Grant’s Farm.
• Horticulturalist/Arborist: A horticulturalist would be retained to enhance the flowers around Grant’s Farm, and an arborist would care for the farm’s many older trees and plant new ones.
• Pesticide-free: Grant’s Farm would immediately eliminate the use of any pesticides or other chemicals that potentially could endanger bees, butterflies, or other plants and animals on the farm.

Phase Three/Years 3-5

• Kräftig Lager: Busch also proposes to build a small brewery to demonstrate to the public how beer is made. One concept would be to build a new structure, whereas another concept envisions it being built inside a huge barn at Grant’s Farm that would be completely renovated for use as a brewery.

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  • kjohnson04

    Crazy idea: couldn’t this be accomplished via a public-private partnership? The St. Louis Zoo owns the property, and Busch does his thing?

    • Benjamin Aronov

      that seems like a lose-lose rather than a win-win

  • mc

    This would be incredible. My father would be proud. He was a brewer for 36 years at AB. A lot of former AB families will definitely support this as well as the entire St. Louis area. This would be wonderful for St. Louis.

  • Ben Harvey

    Billy has the ability to truly create a St. Louis destination here. It’s time for Grant’s farm to be taken to the next level

  • Without knowing anything about the long-term viability of Kräftig (I like it!), or the man himself — professionally or personally — I am rooting hard for Billy Busch’s success.

    Busch could’ve easily taken his share from the sale of his family’s business and lived out the rest of his life in ease. But instead, he’s putting that money back into the American industry his family pretty much created. I really find that inspiring.

    Not to overly-exalt legacy, but if A-B Inbev were freed of its connection to Grant’s Farm, and the Busch family sold it to the Zoo, that’s basically the end of the Anheuser-Busch heritage here. St. Louis would do well to see Billy’s brewing business grow, locally and nationally, and the Busch name again grow to be one of business strength and success. And, by association, that of St. Louis…

    Also worth noting that the $6M difference in offers is misleading. The $30M gets split equally, more or less (I assume) among six children, Billy Busch included. The $24M that B. Busch is offering would presumably only be split among the other five — or four, I guess, if the other brother is relinquishing his share in support of Billy’s bid and vision.

    Finally — please, please, please open your primary Kräftig brewery in the City of St. Louis — I guarantee folks will support the brand with (almost) as much pride and loyalty as they did A-B.