2021, The Year In Review, Part 2: The Quickening

NOTE: This is part 2 of a series that starts with 2021:…Part The First

A quick bit of background: going into all of this, our financial plan was rather bleak. Pandemic was in full lockdown mode, no vaccines were in sight, nobody had any idea what was coming next… Plus, financial projections are always “just guessing” (which drives my engineering side nuts, even when you account for “well, it’s educated guessing”, because it’s not that educated! 😉 ) and it’s just my natural tendency to under-promise (part of a career of stress/crisis mitigation). So, anyway, our financial projections had things like: Q1 (quarter #1; the first three months): sell 2 pints a day, Q2: sell 5 pints a day, Q3: sell 10 pints a day, etc. In short, it was Q1: Lose money hand over fist, Q2: continue to bleed money, Q3: continue losing boatloads of money.

Now, this wasn’t just me being paranoid; it turns out that this is pretty-much industry standard for new food-service places (i.e., restaurants) and, while we weren’t strictly a restaurant, information about breweries was less readily available. Plus, the paranoid/under-promise thing. Anyway…

Come a few days before opening and I had two very-strong fears:
Fear #1: What if nobody comes and buys beer? (Sad trombone…)
Fear #2: What if a bazillion people show up all wanting beer? (Super-stressed-out trombone…)
So I hatched a plan! While sad, it struck me that nobody showing up was less-bad than me delivering a sub-standard customer experience; hence, no customers was better than too many customers. My plan? We wouldn’t announce opening our first weekend. We’d just unlock the door and see who wandered in.

This turned out to be reasonably brilliant in terms of meeting the desired goals. First off, Saratoga has a huge pent-up demand for a brewery, so folks wandered in — a lot of them folks who had been chatting with me for 11 months while we built-out the place, and exclaiming “are you FINALLY open?!?!” — and they were crazy amounts of supportive and wonderful and, when it got a tiny bit busy, they were lovely-patient with me while I asked them to please wait a bit while I got caught up.

Secondly, our newfound friends were more than happy to tell their friends and families and anyone else who would listen so, as I learned how to work a cash register and do service-industry stuff and developed a flow, they all helped-out by boosting our business.

…And folks seemed to enjoy both the beer and the atmosphere. We feel truly blessed in that I don’t think we could have asked for a better soft-opening. Even the little quirks & kinks that required working out weren’t that bad, and came at a reasonable pace that allowed us to adjust and fix. Even though we missed the first week in October (opened Friday, Oct 8), we still managed to clear rent & utilities; a bit better than “sell 2 pints a day”! 🙂

(NOTE: “Sell 2 pints/day” wasn’t our real projection, but it correctly conveys the level of paranoia built into our business plan.)

The rest of the year was slow-but-steady growth. We Added a new beer almost other week (opened with 2, finished the year with 7; more on the way!) Our customer base continued to grow, we started getting regulars, I’m starting to get a little better at remembering people’s names, sales are trending upward, etc. With y’all’s help, it seems that we’ll probably survive. 🙂

All in all, it was a lot of learning and a lot of fun. It’s great to actually be open, and I’m truly excited for what 2022 has to bring — both for us and for our new- and soon-to-be-friends.

In part-3, I’ll bullet-list a few items of learning & fun that stand out in memory.

Until then, “Stay friendly, my thirsts!” 🙂

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