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Pitcher Perfect: How a Beer Geek Turned an Idea into Two Locations and a Thriving Online Presence

8 min read

Happy Small Business Saturday, everyone!

The last Saturday in November celebrates small businesses and encourages people to shop at independent local stores instead of large retailers.

To celebrate Small Business Saturday, we’ve been sharing stories of Ecwid merchants every week this month.

First you read about Atlas46, a workwear manufacturer that turned a family-operated store to a seven-figure business. Then you met Kissed by a Bee, a cosmetics brand that has mastered multiple selling techniques at the same time: website sales, through social media sales, and good old in-person sales. You checked out Cecilia’s Steel jewelry brand, run by a designer that turned her passion into a business, all by herself.

Today we wrap up our Small Business Saturday series with a story of The Beer Cellar. It’s a craft beer store run by Dave Hawley, a beer geek who couldn’t find a store dedicated to craft beer in his city. So he decided to start his own!

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Idea Turned into a Business Plan

Dave came up with the idea for his store after visiting the City Beer Store in San Francisco. At that time, there were no craft beer stores around the Chicagoland area where he lived, so Dave decided to open one himself. He came home excited about the concept and started to write out his business plan immediately.

He spent some time tweaking his business plan and saving money until the right opportunity came: a chance for him to open his first physical store. Roughly a year after his trip to San Francisco, Dave got laid off from his day job, which felt to him like the perfect opportunity to dive headlong into his fledgling store, The Beer Cellar.

Growing the Store and the Team

In 2014, Dave opened the first Beer Cellar — in a basement beneath a women’s boutique. Two years later, the business moved to a new location in Glen Ellyn — a space twice as big as the first. The team also decided to step up the shopping experience for their customers. They incorporated draft beer sales into the store, so that customers could have a drink while they shopped or even stop by for a drink with friends.

The patio of the The Beer Cellar location in Glen Ellyn

The business continued to grow and in 2019, Dave opened a new location in Geneva. Just a year later the Glen Ellyn store took over the lease of the suite next door, allowing opportunity for even more expansion.

The Beer Cellar location in Geneva

Business growth like this wouldn’t be possible without a great team of employees. Dave and Lauren Hawley are Beer Cellar’s owners, and both also work behind the scenes to make sure their brand continues to be a leader in the industry. The rest of the team is like family: their Geneva store’s beer buyer, Matt Piper, has been with the team for five years now. The Glen Ellyn location’s beer buyer, Ben Morgan, has been with them for just over a year.

The Beer Cellar is a staple of the local community and attracts people from all walks of life. While we focus on providing the suburbs with the freshest craft beer available, we also curate a great selection of wine and spirits.Dave Hawley, the owner of The Beer Cellar

The Challenges of Being a Small Business Owner

Dave believes that as a business owner, it is his job to take on the challenges that each day present.

Challenges are a part of everyday life and as a business owner you cannot run away from them, you have to embrace them and provide solutions as best you can.Dave Hawley, the owner of The Beer Cellar

As Dave puts it, to handle challenges as a business owner, you have to be resourceful and know your limitations. He thinks you can accomplish a lot when you utilize the resources the world has to offer.

I would not identify as a “handy” person, but you will go bankrupt very quickly if you have to hire someone to fix everything for you.Dave Hawley, the owner of The Beer Cellar

Going Online

When Dave decided to take the business online, he chose Ecwid E-Commerce because of their integration with Shopkeep’s POS. He felt that the learning curve was quick and easy, and the owners were able to get their new e-commerce site to generate revenue overnight.

An Ecwid store of The Beer Cellar in Glen Ellyn

They used Ecwid’s Instant Site to set up two online stores: one for the Geneva store and another one for the Glen Ellyn location.

I am not a website developer and had no real way to bring my products online at both stores until I was able to utilize Ecwid. It allowed us to pivot in a simple way and continue to generate revenue. This week we just hit 15K orders since COVID-19 crippled our retail channel in March.Dave Hawley, the owner of The Beer Cellar

Dave says that the Ecwid Mobile app has been a huge asset to the team. The best thing is that the staff can work on different projects within their e-commerce store simultaneously.

I often have two-four employees working at any given time and they can all use the app on their phone.Dave Hawley, the owner of The Beer Cellar

Social media also helps Dave and the team to sell and promote their products online. They post new products when they arrive to let customers know what to expect when they go online or in-store to shop.

A team member working at the Glen Ellyn store

Formula for Success

Clearly, Dave knows the secrets of turning a small idea into a thriving business. Being a small business owner isn’t always easy, but with the right team, dedication, and being open to changes, one can make it all work.

Just keep grinding. Build relationships both professionally and personally and listen to new ideas.Dave Hawley, the owner of The Beer Cellar

To read more Ecwid merchants success stories, and pick up some tips and tricks, check out the Success Stories section on the blog.

If you’d like to give a shoutout to any small business you know, feel free to share a couple of words and the link to their store in the comments. And keep local businesses in mind when shopping for gifts this year!

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About the author

Kristen is a сontent creator at Ecwid. She finds inspiration in sci-fi books, jazz music, and home-cooked food.

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