This post probably doesn’t belong here. At least the beginning part, where I apologize for slacking on the blog among many other things for personal reasons. You see, it’s been tough around here at the humble storefront with a spring/summer of traveling back and forth to care for, give support to, and simply love an ailing family member. That person was Jason’s mother, Susie. She got sick earlier this year and passed away a few weeks ago on August 9. (Some of you might know that Jason also lost his father and mentor only last September.) Needless to say, it’s been a difficult process doing everything we can to keep this place open with smiles on our faces, without a corporate system to back us up, a big staff, and government time to use (not abuse) like the Family Leave Act. It’s been a rough year for us here. It’s even harder as a small business owner.
We publicly want to thank a multitude of awesome people, especially Mike Guarracino, who is The Best Employee on Planet Earth. We often joke that it’s unfair he wins Employee of the Month all the time (because he’s our only employee), but seriously, in our time of need, this one amazing person has kept Bruisin’ Ales functioning with open doors. Without his flexibility, understanding and completely unselfish nature, we could have lost many days of business through emergencies, visits and other random happenings that occurred throughout the year. We hope that we are at least two-thirds the employers to him that he is as an employee to us. He gives 100% all the time. We realize how lucky we are. (Also, please note, he shaved his head this week, so now, both Mike and Jason have shaved heads and beards with dark hair. Jason is the tall one; Mike is the one with the bike and the dogs you all love so much.)
Others to thank: Terri Lechner and Jason Martin: Our oldest and dearest friends in Asheville—who helped paint the interior of the humble storefront in the colors of Belgium—also came in to help clean-up and keep the shelves full. Sophie Thompson: The daughter of friends, she helps us out in summertime with cleaning, glassware, folding t-shirts, sweeping and other random stuff. Sophie and her dad, Tom, came in for a few hours during the funeral week to help Mike stock. Rebecca Bedingfield: Bruisin’ regular, she ran errands for me while I was out of town, helped stock, made people laugh and helped a very heated crowd (from a sweltering A/C unit) survive the Duck Rabbit tasting the other week. Scott Witherspoon: Customer turned great friend, he’s weathered a couple Saturday hours, helping make recommendations to people. If I’m forgetting anyone, it’s not on purpose. My brain is fried. Just know how very thankful we are for everything that everyone has done to help us through.
The day after Jason’s mom’s funeral, I got a message from Joe at Blatz Liquor in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Blatz Liquor folks are our comrades—a small, independent beer store in downtown, just two years our junior. I banter with them a lot on Twitter and while many people think that indie beer stores compete with each other, we really don’t. The truth is, we all recognize how difficult it is to be competitive in this business and regularly support each other. Solidarity, if you will. We are a tough bunch, doing what we love, following our passion for beer in a world where corporate megastores and groceries want to crush us. That’s the long and short of it. You probably know where I’m going with this: Blatz Liquor is closing today.
From August 14:
Today it is with great sadness that I must announce the closing of Blatz Liquor.
For 2 years we have worked as hard as possible to bring the biggest and best beer selection to downtown Milwaukee. We have gained an awesome group of regular customers and an even better group of friends. Sadly with some increases in monthly costs and a leveling in sales its just too much for the already slim profit margins to handle. It breaks my heart to have to do this, since day one at Chicago Ave. Liquor I had planned on opening a store downtown that catered to all the beer geeks and people that enjoy a glass of wine or a mixed cocktail like myself. I’ve sacrificed emotionally, physically, financially and loved every second of it.
So, today I mourn also the loss of my comrades. That last part just about sums it up. This business comes with many sacrifices. We’re lucky we live in a town where supporting local businesses is a top priority, however, that attitude or practice doesn’t trickle down to everyone. When Sam’s Club sells certain beers at our cost and the groceries sell beer at a no-profit margin and megastores like Total Wine or World Market kill us with bulk pricing, that essentially negates certain brands we, and other stores like us, could and would otherwise carry. I cringe when I hear someone say, “This is 25-50¢ less at whereever-it-is.” The truth is, independent beer stores like ourselves are not trying to rip anyone off. We are just trying to make a living doing what we love. Here’s a trade secret: Beer has the lowest profit margin of all things alcoholic. Here’s another fact: Unlike a lot of other indie stores, we sell only beer. And, there it is.
We opened this store because we love beer, beer people, and want to provide a great selection of hard-to-find rare goodies in addition to a hard-to-beat selection of imports and American craft beer from across the country. It’s not an easy business; it is a difficult business. But, like Joe, we love every second of it. So, when I send out a Tweet or post to Facebook the friendly advisory to “support your local, independent beer store today”—I mean ALL of the indie retailers, yours, across the country, not just Bruisin’ Ales.
Join me today by dropping in to your local indie beer store and buy a beer in honor of Blatz Liquor. Let’s hope that their closing is not a sign of things to come in these questionable economic times. I know we hope to be here for a very long time.
And if you’re in Milwaukee today, go visit them for the big, closing bash. We’ll be there in spirit.
“What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise” —Oscar Wilde