On Thursday, May 2, the Sleepy Whale opened daily service in downtown Chandler. Why is that important? The Sleepy Whale happens to be a beer bar and bottle shop operated by Justin Evans of The Wandering Tortoise and Hops On Birch renown.
The Whale, as it’s already being called, had a hell of an opening weekend. The success of the grand opening party, which is to say day one, can be measured in the amount of kegs the shop went through, which is to say 21. The day’s action bumped the new shop to the fifth-most checked-in location on Untappd, globally. Yeah.
Evans opened the beer joint with Tony Fatica and Ryan Kemmet. Fatica was an employee of Evans’, Kemmet a patron, and both are now business partners. Evans describes Fatica as the right-hand man, and Kemmet as the go-to guy when something needs figuring out. “We all just kind of balance each other,” Evans says.
Back to the beer.
The Sleepy Whale, like the Wandering Tortoise, keeps a tight and heavily exclusive beer menu. It has 32 taps, and features Arizona beer companies like Wren House, Arizona Wilderness, Pueblo Vida in Tucson, Dark Sky from Flagstaff, and more. In fact, Dark Sky gave the Whale a keg of anniversary beer to shell out before the staff had even tapped it themselves. It’s a supportive group.
Almost as supportive as the community surrounding downtown Chandler, in fact. Evans says it's not unsurprising that a new spot with good beer and good marketing earned so many patrons, but the new Whale team, and the amount of kegs they went through, still blew his mind.
“I’m blown away by the new staff and the new faces,” he says.
And Evans was once one of those southeast Valley faces. He’s from the Chandler area, and knows the lack of craft beer concepts in that part of town. “I always had to travel for beer,” he says, which is why he picked the rising downtown Chandler area for his third spot (in addition to Tortoise and Hops).
Well, that and Chandler’s walkability. Well, more so once the construction clears up.
Even with three spots humming along, Evans is still hustling. At press time, he’s working to open a fourth spot, again with Fatica and Kemmet. The Theodore is in the early stages of opening in Phoenix proper this August. Which is funny, because, “I hate ‘the’ and I still seem to do it anyway,” he says.
The Sleepy Whale. 290 South Arizona Avenue, Chandler.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.