Stickmen Brewery & Skewery is transforming the former Lake House Restaurant at 40 N. State St. into a casual gathering spot reminiscent of Japanese isakayas where folks can enjoy onsite brewed beer and a menu featuring skewers, small plates and entrees.
Chances are the co-owners, Tim Schoenheit and JT Turner could be on to something. The New York Times suggests that the izakaya concept—a brew pub that offers casual food—could be picking up where the sushi bar left off.
And in their market research on brewpubs, Schoenheit and Turner found that the biggest obstacle owners faced was capacity. “I can’t make enough beer,” one brewer after another told them. “I can’t keep up.” So the pent-up demand seems to be there.
Enter Stockmen Brewery & Skewery…into a building that has been reincarnated into a different restaurant almost as many times as the Ducks have redesigned their football uniforms. Why do Schoenheit and Turner think they can succeed where others haven’t?
They hold the keys to success of a small business owner.
● DOERS WITH A PASSION FOR MAKING THINGS HAPPEN. Watching the Lake House take shape, you realize that these guys are doers—the kind that stop thinking about their dreams and decide to act upon them.
Neither of them has been a commercial brewer before or owned a restaurant. “That makes it a little more frightening,” Schoenheit admits. “I think when you’re taking a bigger leap, you maybe end up doing a little more thinking. But then again, here we are…taking the leap.”
●UNJUSTIFIABLE OPTIMISTS: Entrepreneur Jerry Kaplan insists that entrepreneurs “have to believe that you can succeed in what you’re doing in the face of large evidence to the contrary and lots of people telling you that’s ridiculous, don’t even try.”
While they haven’t faced that kind of skepticism in their market research which told them to the contrary—there’s a need and you can fill it—they have run into it with their location. “One out of 25 people tells us, ‘the building is cursed,’ ‘businesses never last there,’ ‘there’s no parking,’ ‘you’re doomed for failure,’” Schoenheit confesses. In spite of that, they were thrilled when they were able to negotiate a lease for the space.
●OKAY WITH UNCERTAINTY – Kaplan says, a successful entrepreneur has to be able to “go to bed at night not knowing how things are going to turn out in the morning and feel fine about it.”
“I’m getting better with that,” Schoenheit explains. Their biggest challenge was waiting out their lease negotiation. They learned that several other large breweries were also interested in the space. “Our first reaction was we’ll never get this space—we’re just two guys—but we didn’t let that discourage us,” Schoenheit adds. “We totally played the local card. We wrote him a letter that we’re the ones putting our money in so we’re the ones who are going to be there everyday running the business , not some corporation, and it resonated with him.” After three months of anxious waiting, they learned the place was theirs.
Now the uncertainty they have to live with concerns the schedule. Are the contractors going to do what they say tomorrow? Are the permits really lined up? “You walk in the door and there are surprises every time,” Schoenheit adds. “We just try to have this idea that we will eventually open, and the cash flow direction will change.”
●EAGER TO BE THEIR OWN BOSS. Although neither owners have been their own bosses yet, they have always worked autonomously. “We’re excited to have that control over our destiny,” Schoenheit explains. “Control of our brand, our product, to try to create the atmosphere that we wanted to create in the beginning—the atmosphere of those little places in Tokyo that are casual and where people are enjoying themselves.”
Seems Schoenheit and Turner aren’t the only ones excited to get started. They’ve opened their deck overlooking Oswego Lake to patrons the past seven or eight summer-like days Lake Oswego has enjoyed. Without much fanfare, they managed to attract 60 people at a time. “We were as busy as we could keep up with,” Schoenheit explains. “We have hundreds of people who are chomping at the bit waiting for us to open which is kind of unusual—but that’s a good thing,” he adds.
So watch for an official opening by late June. But in the meantime, if the sun is shining, celebrate Small Business Week by checking out the lakefront deck at Stickmen Brewery & Skewery. Cheers!