Narwhal’s Crafted is a craft cocktail bar based in Missouri that offers frozen and specialty cocktails. The popular hangout spot, with locations in St. Louis and St. Charles, is home to fourteen Spaceman USA frozen beverage machines each, putting Narwhal’s in a league of its own. We got the chance to speak to Brad Merten, co-founder of the chain, to hear all about how Narwhal’s was conceived and the successes their frozen beverage machines have brought.
Where did the idea for Narwhal’s originate from?
It all started in 2010 when Brad, along with his good friend and business partner, Brandon Holzheuter, opened two Pickleman’s franchises together, a popular sandwich shop. After being successful in the restaurant industry for a few years, they decided to take a pivot and do something on their own – that’s when Narwhal’s was born.
Brad and Brandon wanted to create a business that was not only a niche, but also satisfied an untapped market. They decided frozen cocktails were the way to go, since craft cocktails were booming at the time, and most places were selling artificial slushies at best. Narwhal’s was set to be a cocktail bar, strictly dedicated to serving drinks, with all of the ingredients made in-house from scratch.
Is Narwhal’s strictly a cocktail bar?
Narwhal’s only sells drinks, but customers are more than welcome to bring in their own food from elsewhere. After thinking up the concept for the bar, Brad and Brandon decided it would be too much of a hassle to have an entire kitchen staff, all of the food equipment needed to house a full kitchen, and it would require too much cleaning. Brad told us that Narwhal’s will never offer food on site, since that would not benefit their business plan in any way.
However, Brad gave us a little insight on his and Brandon’s newly developed restaurant – Loaded: Elevated Nachos. The nacho joint specializes in shareable nachos that pair well with frozen cocktails. The concept is like Narwhal’s in that it is a niche eatery, and it requires minimal clean-up. The best part of all is that Loaded is located adjacent to the Narwhal’s in St. Charles, so customers dining in at Narwhal’s can order Loaded’s nachos by scanning a QR code on their phone, and the snack will be brought directly to them in the bar.
When did to-go frozen cocktails join the menu?
Frozen cocktails to-go were a product of the pandemic, or as Brad likes to call it, a happy accident. Originally, Narwhal’s never planned on selling frozen cocktails to-go, but when Covid-19 forced restaurants into shutting down and did not allow consumers to dine-in, Brad and Brandon turned to them. Recognizing that the past two years have been challenging for anyone in the restaurant industry, the duo decided to turn it into an opportunity rather than a threat. Although the pandemic is not affecting businesses as drastically as it was two years ago, the frozen cocktails to-go have remained on the menu and have opened a new stream of revenue for Narwhal’s, with talk of potentially bringing them into retail.
What are the best-selling flavors and is there anything exciting to look forward to on the menu?
At Narwhal’s, Brad and Brandon generally change their menu whenever they feel like it, but there are a few staple flavors that are available year-round. Among their flagship flavors are the Strawberry Peach Bellini, the Strawberry Basil Lemonade, the Chocolate Mudslide, and the Orange Dreamsicle. Brad mentioned that the Chocolate Mudslide was temporarily taken off the menu one time, and consumers were not happy about it.
Currently, Narwhal’s is serving their staple flavors as well as their summer menu. In the coming months, consumers can look forward to seasonal menu items such as a Pumpkin White Russian and an Apple Cider flavored frozen cocktail. Be sure to follow their Instagram here, where they are always encouraging customers to give drink recommendations and ideas.
How did Narwhal’s choose Spaceman and would they recommend the brand?
Brad told us that he hardly remembers how they came across Spaceman, but it was probably a simple Google search. He said that the machines from other brands weren’t as “sleek and sexy” as the Spaceman machines were, which is what intrigued him. After reaching out to Jeff Resnick, CEO of Spaceman, a machine was sent over to Brad’s house. Eager to help, Jeff flew in to Missouri, they sat in Brad’s basement one night mixing up different recipes, and the rest is history.
Having purchased over 30 machines for Narwhal’s, Brad says he is highly satisfied with how the machines operate, and he believes they are the sharpest, best looking machines. Narwhal’s has been using Spaceman since the brand launched, and in Brad’s own words “Spaceman has been great and we’ve been super happy.”
How has Spaceman played a role in Narwhal’s success?
Although there are other items on the menu such as different beers, Pup Cups, and merchandise, it’s still safe to say that the frozen cocktails account for majority of Narwhal’s sales. Brad told us that on average, the bar sells about 3,500 to 4,000 slushies per week. With that being said, the machines paid for themselves and became profitable within the first year of Narwhal’s being open. Besides how profitable the machines are, Brad also mentioned how convenient they are since they virtually do all the work for you – this allows Narwhal’s employees to create a better experience for customers since they can spend more time interacting with them.
Spaceman USA was pleased to hear all about how successful Narwhal’s has been, and we look forward to watching their business grow as they expand and open more locations across Missouri.
Thank you Brad Merten and Brandon Holzheuter for agreeing to do a Spotlight with Spaceman and allowing us to share information about your company.