Success Story: Wisconsin –
The Churchill family, already familiar in Spooner from their successful coffee shop, opened a brewpub in 2018. Sue and Jeff Churchill handle marketing for the business, while son Spencer is the general manager. Oldest son Blain is a brewer. Daughter Alexandria, who manages the coffee shop nearby, serves as operations manager. Head brewer Brian Sunderland joined the team early on, and together they have created an experience to remember!
Driven by Love and History
The Churchill family loves the tourist community of Spooner and wanted to bring a more upscale dining and entertainment operation to town. Their enjoyment of brewpubs on family vacations led to their business concept. “We hired a chef and brewmaster,” said Sue. “We bring the vision, marketing, and community involvement. We hire a good team, then train and trust.”
They renovated an iconic furniture store in Spooner’s historic downtown, where there is ample foot traffic. Exposed metal, wood and concrete give the brewpub a “warm but tough, industrial attitude,” said Spencer. A curved bar is designed to create natural opportunities for patrons to converse. Blain painted a 700-square-foot backdrop for the brewhouse. “It’s a rendering of men working, gears and wheels, embracing the industrial history of the area,” Sue said.
SBDC Was Instrumental in Securing Financing
The Churchills found Wisconsin’s Small Business Development Centers through the Washburn Economic Development Center’s director, which led to business seminars offered by UW-Stout and 1:1 meetings with consultant Dave Kochendorfer, through the SBDC at UW-Superior. Spencer said, “Creating the business plan — 175 pages with financial projections, personal financial information, pictures, and floor plans — consumed two or three months of our lives, making sure we were ready to seek financing. Dave was instrumental in that.” Round Man Brewing received funding from three sources: A local bank, Washburn County Industrial Development Agency, and the Northwest Regional Planning Commission’s revolving loan fund.
Dave accompanied Jeff , Sue, and Spencer to meetings with lenders. “We’ve lived here for four years,” Sue explained. “Aligning with Dave and his good reputation established our own credibility.” Dave’s assistance with the financial projections “allowed us to be taken more seriously,” Spencer added. Dave said, “I helped them understand business overall, to help them make the right decisions.”
Existing Coffee Shop Business Was an Asset in Planning
Sue and her daughter have operated a coffee shop in downtown Spooner for several years, which has grown to employ 14 and offer a full food menu. Dave helped the Churchills examine county-level data on demographics and tourism from the Washburn EDC, which helped with projections for the brewpub. “The two businesses are significantly different,” Sue said, “but this is a tourist town. We could project how the seasonality would affect the brewpub. I appreciate Dave’s leadership on that.” Dave observed, “Owning the coffee shop, they’ve earned a good deal of respect in the community. It’s definitely going to help them.”
Spencer described Round Man Brewing as a “hop-centric ale house with upper-end pub fare but a blue-collar feel.”
Dave said, “They ask good questions, listen, and pick things up quickly — all the attributes to be successful.”