7 Things We Didn’t Know When We Opened a Brewery
Reflections from Co-owners Haley & Dave Keller as Peddler approaches its 7th anniversary celebration.
When Haley and Dave Keller opened Peddler Brewing Company in March 2013, they were as prepared as anyone could be. Dave, a former Boeing engineer, had been a homebrew hobbyist and dabbled in beer making for years. Haley, a former high school math teacher, had always dreamed of owning her own business.
But opening a business is a bit like on-the-job training: it’s a learning experience that you take on and embrace as you go.
We sat down to reflect on and share learnings from the 7 things that they didn’t know when they set out to open a brewery.
1. Having an architecture background (or working with a business partner with one) would have come in handy.
When designing the space, permitting with the city, and passing the permitting process, the rules that business owners must comply with relating to space occupancy codes, layout, and ADA accessible bathroom design are abundant. Dave spent hours meeting with city planners and navigating Seattle’s city planning department during this drawn-out back-and-forth process.
Haley points to our front door, “The space inside the door was three inches lower than the rest of the floor.” If a gap like that is below a certain threshold, it’s considered a tripping hazard vs a step-down. Because of this, they needed to build a ramp into this space, but it also needed to be ADA accessible. Building a safe entryway was just a small piece of what they needed to do to prepare the space for public use.
2. Similarly, having an accounting background would have come in handy, too.
Haley might have been a math teacher, but knowing all the city, county, state and federal taxes that a business needs to pay can be a trial and error process. Most of the time they found out that they owed tax money by getting a late fee in the mail!
For example, King County charges property tax on any large purchases. Says Haley, “Every year we pay property tax on the fermentors. We thought that when you bought something, you just owned it!”
3. We would completely lose our social life.
Haley and Dave both agreed- “At the time, we were at the age when our friends were still staying up and going out to bars at 2 AM. All of a sudden our lives were consumed with our day jobs and brewery opening.”
They were fortunate that many of their friends would spend social time at Peddler. Their first year being open, they were invited to 11 weddings of close friends and family, but could only make it to 3. “By the time that we had more free time, our friends had gotten older, had kids, and were no longer going out on the weekends.”
4. Buying health insurance sucks.
When you’re your boss, you can’t go to an HR representative when you have questions about your insurance package. A health insurance package with medical, dental and vision coverage is something that you take for granted when you’re used to working full time at a normal 9-5. “All of a sudden you need to figure it out for yourself- the cost of it, shopping for plans”.
“Not that you went to the doctor anyway” Haley jokes with Dave.
5. We would become employers.
Dave & Haley look at each other: “When we were opening Peddler, it never crossed our mind that someday we would have employees, that it would be more than just us behind the bar.”
“A large portion of Peddler’s expenses include payroll, and as a business, it’s exciting that we can support our people’s day-to-day lives and provide well for them. There is a responsibility that comes with that, and there is excitement from having created a job.”
As a small business, there are limitations to what we can be offered, but they’ve thought very intentionally about what they can do to be a better employer to our people than past employers have been to them- flexible scheduling, time off to do what employees need, and a work culture that feels like family.
6. We would meet so many interesting people...
“Grain Wayne, the guy who takes our spent grains. We’ve met three mayors and many council members,” says Dave, as he lists some of the memorable faces they’ve interacted with. Haley & Dave have even had dinner with Mayor Ed Murray at Stoneburner, along with other Ballard small business owners, to talk about concerns in the neighborhood.
Dave also explains that we also purchase almost everything we need from other Ballard community members: the gravel in our beer garden, our office supplies, supplies from the hardware store, runs to the local Cash & Carry, and working with welders and fabricators. There is even a crossover with the boating industry, as they use stainless steel fittings on their equipment too.
...and our voices would be elevated.
“ Lots of important people want to know our opinion-this is both frustrating and exciting,” Haley explains. As small business owners, their voices were elevated above the average citizen almost overnight; Haley found this frustrating because it’s difficult for the average person to get the same kind of airtime, even when sharing the same messages about community issues that really matter. “[Now] what we have to say makes a difference, and that comes with a lot of responsibility.”
That both state and local leaders care what breweries have to say is no surprise: as businesses, breweries have a unique perspective that spans across sectors of industrial space, manufacturing work, wholesale distribution, and customer-facing retail operations.
Haley has been asked to be a part of multiple boards & stakeholder groups and jumps on the opportunities to share her experience in the Ballard community; currently this includes two stakeholder groups - she is on the board of the Ballard Alliance (formerly Ballard Chamber of Commerce) and she is a member of the City of Seattle’s Industrial & Maritime Strategy Ballard Advisory Group.
7. How welcoming the brewery community is.
Ballard is a commonly established brewery neighborhood, and Haley & Dave were initially apprehensive about what interactions with other breweries would be like. Would it be all about competition? Adversarial?
“It has been quite the opposite,” says Haley. “We were pleasantly surprised by how supportive and helpful everyone was. When Hilliards was still here, they would drive their forklift over and help us [move things] when we first opened. Dave has run over to Reubens for brewing chemicals when we were short.”
These days, the Ballard breweries are coming together as a district to make something really special.
Speaking to the greater brewing community, Haley & Dave shared that the WA Brewers Guild became a powerful resource to them. “They have an online forum where [the brewing industry] can help each other out, support one another, answer questions. They welcomed us with open arms.”
Although they didn’t reach out to many folks in Peddler’s beginning stages, they acknowledge that they certainly could have instead of having to figure everything out on their own.
As we rounded out this list, the greatest reflection piece has been that the ups & downs of owning a business have been made possible by the community of friends and beer lovers that we’re lucky enough to call our Peddler family. We hope you’ll join us as we celebrate 7 fantastic years in Ballard at our Anniversary Party on Saturday March 7. Cheers to beers, we’ll see you in the taproom.
Join us at Peddler’s Lucky 7th Anniversary Party
Saturday, March 7th, 11am - 11pm
Cheers with owners Dave & Haley and their children Colin & Ryan as we celebrate 7 fantastic years of beer & community.
Keep the Pint Special: $15 for a full-color celebratory goblet & 2 pints of your choice
The Professors Band: Live music from 5pm-9pm
Special Beer: Anniversary IPA brewed with 7 different hops!
Raffles & prizes all day!
Community Toast with Haley & Dave at 5pm
By: Meghna Jaradi, Marketing & Events Manager
Peddler Brewing Company is a Ballard-based family brewery in Seattle, WA. We specialize in a diverse roster of bike-themed beers in an unfussy family -friendly & dog-friendly taproom. | www.peddlerbrewing.com