20 Apr Sometimes a Brewer’s Most Personal Decisions Have Nothing to Do With Their Beer
Walter and I had a nice trip north to South Bend last Saturday, with five stops moving north to south as we made our way back to Indy. Everyone had a nice crowd and the beer was flowing freely; I think it is a sign that business is getting back to normal. Now, if we can only find enough workers to meet the demand. We had nice conversations at each stop, and one of them pointed out something that we had known before, but didn’t have a really good example of – now we do.
Our third brewery stop was in the small town of Argos, between South Bend and Rochester and just off US31. Fessors Brewery and their food partner Dry Run Kitchen have been open since mid-August of 2021, and things have been rolling along well. The beer is good, the food is good, and the people are good, so now it’s just a matter of getting enough people from beyond Argos to come join all the locals.
Fessors has been a passion project for the friends and family of owners Chris vanDuyne, Josh Goins (beer) and Matt Kolacz (food). The location, the design, and the plans have involved a lot of personal attachments and connections. No business ever opens as an exact replica of the vision the owners had when they started, compromises and new ideas are always incorporated and you keep what you can of your original plan. Some items are non-negotiable at one point, but might become more plastic later on. After all, it’s a business, not a hobby. The more personal the decisions, the harder it is to alter them, but sometimes you must.
Josh told us this past weekend about the billboard that Fessors and Dry Run will be putting up soon on US31. He had a picture of it for us to look at – and it really looks great. However, what I noticed was that the image and font were very different from the sign on their door and the sign for the brewery. I know that the logo for Fessors has great personal meaning for Josh, as does the name. His grandson was trying to call Josh “Professor”, but could only get out as much as “Fessor.” The logo was the the product of local artist and friend Clark De Fluiter, so it was personal as well.
Working with Matt and Chris and then deciding to alter the look of the lettering and the feel of the messaging had to be difficult for Josh. He told me, “Yes, it was hard to move on from our original logo, but we’ll try to use it wherever we can in the future.”
The new Fessors logo, as it will be seen on the billboard and designed by branding expert and HopLore Brewing co-owner Steve Wehmeyer, and really does go well with brewpub in Argos. The look inside reminds one of a 1940’s drugstore/soda fountain, with the round stools that spin around and the booths on the opposite wall. Everyone involved put a huge amount of sweat equity into the design and construction of the taproom, and even beyond, when they put a hole in the wall and opened up a family dining room next door.
However, the original plan was always to expand the brand by opening a larger location just to the south in Rochester. They even had the building picked out and the deal was nearly finished. Unfortunately (or fortunately) the plan didn’t work out for that site, and the team of players had to reevaluate their plan. I like how it has turned out – and I hope they do too. Josh took me over to the building adjacent to Fessors/Dry Run and gave me the rundown on how they are acquiring this space and will expand on site instead of down to Rochester.
There will be a larger expansion of the brew house (they have already expanded it once), and it will be located in an open area that looks down into the basement (a la Salt Creek Brewing near Bedford). There will be large amounts of room for tables, live music, and another family area. The feel will be the same, but the design could be much more open as opposed to the shotgun soda shop image. Once again, this was a big decision to make, as things were envisioned and set in motion, and those original plans had a strong pull for the people involved. Yet, in the name of growing the business, sometimes you have to set aside things to which you have strong personal ties.
Josh works hard on his beer, just as Matt works to perfect the menu and food for Dry Run, and these were never going to be an issue in the continued success of the brewpub. It turned out that other items, just as personal and important, were the things that had to be set aside and changed. It’s not an easy thing to do, especially when something like a certain logo has a true family tie. They make beer and food, but it is a great reminder that running a brewpub means a lot more than just making beer and food, and sometimes that requires personal sacrifice and the ability to change.
We applaud Fessors/Dry Run’s ability to know what is important to them, but to also know what might be necessary to grow the business – many people in the community rely on them making solid business decisions. Here’s hoping that they can meld the old with the new and continue to stay true to themselves and to the business they run.