The two-brother team of Ben and Daron Gruner turned their entrepreneurial skill and passion to work building a local brewery that made Casper, Wyoming a player on the national craft beer scene within just three years of their opening in late 2018.
Having built a successful compression leasing business over the prior 20 years, Ben and Daron understood the importance of setting ambitious goals and working hard to execute a clear plan. As Ben explained, "in the food and beverage industry, you can't start small because as soon as you have success, you'll quickly outgrow your equipment." They needed an appropriate space for installing significant brewing capacity and for serving a large number of in-house customers.
The abandoned Casper Petroleum Club caught their eye with its spacious building and fantastic views of the mountains. But they needed funds to transform the old building, which is where ANB Bank and the Wyoming Smart Capital Network (WSCN) stepped in to finance the purchase and reconditioning of the building.
"We were pleased to partner with ANB Bank to bring this exciting new project to life in Casper. Starting a new business and renovating an iconic building was an ideal merger of new and old" said Mark Huston, Enterprise Manager for WSCN.
Gruner Brothers Brewery opened with the capacity to brew over 8,000 barrels a year and comfortable seating for a family style restaurant that is also a venue for local live music. Their first six handcrafted beers were a hit and continue to be part of the large array of award-winning brews offered today. In addition to serving at their brewery and restaurant, they now distribute beer across Wyoming and Utah.
The road has not always been smooth. COVID was a tough hit, and the company's resilience says a lot about the brothers' experience as entrepreneurs. Almost half their business goes through their own facility, so being completely shut down for three months was a big setback. Distribution was also cut back as bars who sell their beer were also closed, and they couldn't call on customers. They had to reduce staff, Daron stepped in to become the full-time brewer, and they both worked 14-hour days to keep the business going.
Their biggest lesson from those times is to never give up hope. When things get tough, rather than implode, you need to get creative and think of new strategies. They took advantage of the downtime to develop seven new beer brands that excited distributors who were ready for orders when things opened up. The crisis led them to shift their strategy to work closer with distribution, which has meant more time on the road but has paid off with new distributors.
The Gruners have a deep appreciation for the people of Wyoming and strive be a staple in the community. As they proudly state on their website, "As brothers growing up and working in Wyoming, we know how great this state is. It has made us who we are, hardworking, dedicated, and slightly wind-blown. We appreciate the simple things in life and believe our state is unique and its beer should be too."
The Gruner brothers appreciate the support they've had from their ANB banker Tim Anderson, who was willing to work with them through the tough times. Ben commented that "sometimes banks don't want to lend to new businesses but wait until things are proven, or when you can put 50% down; but that's not realistic. It's at the beginning that entrepreneurs need support to grow. Everyone is talking about bringing new business to Wyoming, but they sometimes forget it's the small, local businesses that are really doing that work of bringing new types of jobs to the state."
What can we expect in the future from Gruner Brothers Brewery? More great new recipes, as well as an evolution into an open beverage company, taking advantage of their canning facilities to package other drinks. They also expect to provide additional services to other small businesses. Part of their business model is to rent out unused capacity, which helps small breweries in need.
About Wyoming Smart Capital Network
The Wyoming Smart Capital Network (WSCN) creates jobs by helping small business access capital. The fund was initially created with funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury as a part of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) program and is now an evergreen fund. The WSCN is a coalition of 16 municipalities who joined together to bring this capital resource to their communities. Development Capital Networks manages and administer WSCN on behalf of the consortium to foster small business growth and enhance job creation throughout the state of Wyoming. Security State Bank is a participating lending partner.