How Do You Fit All That Art in One Brewing Company? Lessons in community and small biz from Tractor's Skye Devore
Guest blogger Skye Devore is the co-owner of Tractor Brewing Company.
There is a great deal of support and trust that needs to come from staff and co-ownership when entering into a mission such as creating an art hub out of a local brewing company. I have amazing staff who have embraced this approach and who really run with it. My business partner David and our staff love it. Those who don’t? They tend to fade away.
Many of our employees/family are artists. Nobody is shocked by anything that happens anymore! Drag queens, cabarets, poets, a giant albatross: You name it, we embrace it. Who wants to be just another boring bar? There are enough of those.
I met some of the best people I have ever known—and inadvertently established Tractor as a business that supports the arts.
I am a lucky person who was very dedicated to this brewing company when it was in a bad place. That dedication was rewarded. I wanted to hang out with cool people at awesome events, and that translated into getting Public Celebration Permits so that there could be alcohol at art-centric events and still be within the law. Initially when we started serving at off-site events it was just me, a tractor and kegs of beer. It was long hours and heavy lifting but the things I was able to experience in between pint pours were so great. I remember wondering why everyone didn’t do it because it was so much fun. I met some of the best people I have ever known—and inadvertently established Tractor as a business that supports the arts.
Those events are also how I met the current co-owner of Tractor and our brewmaster David Hargis. His wife is a member of Tricklock Company and we played T-ball in their basement for hours on end. And drank beer. That was then; it was the best of times. We continue to do those events and our staff get to experience those things. We also now get to host those events in our spaces.
When you look at Tractor Brewing you see beer—from an outsider’s perspective that is of course totally fitting. But we keep adding to the brand and perspective that folks can approach our company with. We are becoming a lifestyle brand; it’s a fun feat to attack, being a businessperson in such an art-minded community. The creativity that is necessary is readily available when you surround yourself with creative staff—and the rest is a work in beautiful progress.
We have done very well at becoming a fabulous and fun place to hang out. Now it is time to work on beer flavor and innovation in beverage. Moving out of Los Lunas has done so much for the beer quality (water quality and sources in ABQ have proven to be better for beer-making). Albuquerque is very competitive. We are in a space now that was renovated to be a brewery and we plan on making the most of it. All of the creativity and style that we display in our tap rooms is being taken to the back of the house and the beverages we make and serve reflect that.
It is important to keep balance and for everyone involved in an operation to feel a part of it. One way we approach this is in naming beers. Everyone gets a shot at being clever, and the most clever one wins—sometimes it’s a server, sometimes it’s one of our interns, and sometimes it’s a brewery worker. Everyone has a shot at putting their mark on the business in a way that lasts and is something to be proud of.
To those who are starting a new local business, beer-related or not, I would say: 1) Don’t rest until you are where you want to be, and 2) Hire great people. A successful business isn’t one where you hire just anybody to do all the work for you. Your team has to be carefully crafted and contain only people that you have the utmost trust and respect for. Those people also need to respect you. And they won’t if you ask them to do things that you wouldn’t do yourself or if you are never present.
Also, get really great at multitasking. I try to combine things. I meet my friends for a drink at one of our tap rooms. I bring my babies to work. I answer emails and phone calls from home. I also work with many of my friends. And I drag my husband out with me as often as possible. No matter how much he complains.
This post was co-produced by Pyragraph and sponsor Tractor Brewing Company.
Thank you for this, Skye! I’m forever marveling at how you manage to do as much as you do (while raising twin babies!) and I’m learning a lot from witnessing you in action. The amazing team you have in place and your willingness to trust and delegate as well as letting your family of employees have so much creative input is awe inspiring.