"Brick and mortar retail is dying."
"Are you sure that's a good idea?"
"Bars are A LOT of hard work."
We've heard variations of these statements/questions ever since we decided to turn our little dog treat company into a bar and gift shop. Most who say these things are well intentioned. Heck, we've even said those things to ourselves. What people don't often know when they say these things to us is where we come from, or more accurately, from whom. Our hope is in sharing our background, you will gain insights into how our roots will lay the foundation for Barley Labs.
These gorgeous people are my parents, Mama and Papa Chu. They worked in restaurants for as long as I can remember. While most kids grew up coloring at their kitchen table, I often did the same, just in the booths of restaurants. My dad tried a couple of times to own his own restaurant, but he ended up being a much better general manager than business owner. I don't know exactly why those businesses didn't work out, but I do know it was never due to a lack of work ethic. I learned the word "workaholic" at a very young age, along with what it meant to marry ketchup bottles. He was the kind of boss who always was floating around the restaurant, never hiding in the office when his staff needed him.
My mom often worked with my dad, uniform always clean and pressed with her hair curled and makeup tastefully done. My best guess is other employees hated the woman because of just how GREAT she is at her job. She works fast, she works clean, and she will always offer to do more than what was assigned. And she did all this while making sure my dad and I had a homemade dinner every.single.night.
When I was young, money was tight. At times my mom had two more jobs in addition to the one she had with my dad. When people say, "It's going to be hard," about our business plans, I have a different perspective. "Hard" is a relative term. I know families who have dealt with far worse than what we went through. I also know Scott and I have the means where our situation will never be as hard as it was for my parents.
Yes, it's going to be hard, but what provides me some level of solace is the foundation they've given me. I know the kind of hours and stamina it takes to run this kind of business. I know what it looks like when a business fails, and I know the kind of fortitude you need to pick up the pieces and move on. As soon as I was legally allowed to start working, I joined my parents as an order caller at a steakhouse my dad was managing. I have memories of going in early on the weekends to prep the restaurant with my parents -- opening #10 cans of pudding, ripping open bags of salad to soak in cold water, and decorating chocolate cakes with bags of whipped cream (not exactly fine dining, but what do you expect from a chain in the 90s). Countless restaurant/bar/retail jobs later, I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly that come along with working in this industry.
Even though Scott and I might be panicking (this is scary!), you as our customers and maybe even employees someday will only ever feel what I felt growing up in those restaurants as a kid -- a sense that you're well taken care of, a sense that the people working for/with you take a lot of pride in what they do, and a sense that if those people don't get it right, they'll do what they can to fix it.
This beautiful couple is Scott's parents, Mom and Dad Beaudry. Sadly, they both already have passed on, but their legacy lives in their four strong, smart, and resourceful kids, including their youngest -- my partner in both life and business.
I never got to meet Scott's mom. From what I hear, she was incredibly kind, but you also did not muck around with her. As far as I can tell, Scott was a mama's boy, though he has never owned up to it. He's told me about doing crafts with his mom (we still have pot holders she crocheted), how she made him her secret gift wrapper during the holidays because -- and I can attest to this -- he is shockingly talented at it, and how even though she might have taken a bit of time to warm up to me (he is her baby boy after all), she would've eventually taken a liking to me.
I am eternally grateful that I did get to meet Scott's dad before he died. From all accounts, he was wise, strong, generous, and loved his wife and kids fiercely. Based on the short amount of time I spent with him, I could easily see how all of that is true. He was quiet, but when he smiled his entire face lit up. He told me stories that, according to Scott, were the same stories he told a million times (they were new to me so I didn't mind). It was around holidays, and he made sure to ask Scott's sister Christine to help him get me a Christmas gift, even though we had just met.
His parents, like mine, worked very hard. His mom worked for the State of Illinois, and his dad worked as an electrician; but it was what they did at home that helped shape Scott. Thanks to these very well-rounded people, Scott can build almost anything (including his own kegerator), fix cars, cook, and sew. He also grew up in a house that always had pets (dogs and cats). It's because of his relationship with his childhood dog Lucky (see photo below -- he's sunbathing on a deck Scott's dad built) that we even have our girl Barley. I never had pets and only agreed to a dog because Scott spoke so longingly about Lucky (and had his ashes in an urn on his mantle).
In addition to his love for dogs, Scott got his love for beer from his dad. We'll talk more about how this plays into how we'll approach beer in our space in a future post, but if it weren't for his dad's influence in this area, I don't think Barley Labs would exist.
Scott's parents taught him how to love and care for animals and how important it is to take a moment each day for yourself (in Scott and his dad's case, through a cold beer), and it's those lessons that created the foundation for Barley Labs. All we ever wanted to do was to create a way to celebrate the love we have for great dogs and great beer, and we hope that our new space will be a place for you to do that with us.
Yes, retail stores are a dying breed, and we'll be climbing an uphill battle in an incredibly competitive online landscape. But we're up to the challenge to create something that the Amazons of the world can't (or at least haven't yet...shudder...) -- a space that is more than just a place to buy stuff. We want Barley Labs to be a community where you feel safe to bring your dog, where you can learn, and where you connect with old friends and make new ones.
Until next time, pals.