Don’t underestimate the power of business planning in the garage with your college roommate. Although ideas at that time in your life may not necessarily work out, it’s worth thinking it through with people you trust and envisioning a business that might some day come to fruition. This story is true for Chris Shanks who brewed beer in the garage during his days as an undergraduate studying Business at the University of Nevada, Reno. He and his roommate Brandon Wright went through lots of trial and error but enjoyed the process so much they agreed how cool it would be to have their own brewery one day.
Don’t underestimate the power of business planning in the garage with your college roommate.
Fast forward to 2015, Chris and his college roommate Brandon not only have their own brewery, but they also have a restaurant that is expanding through brewery and distillery product manufacturing. They had a big vision for a commercial property that was previously used as the old train depot on Fourth Street. With Chris’ background as the part owner of Louis Basque Corner and experience as a commercial broker at Dickson Commercial Group and Brandon’s as a brewmaster, they successfully partnered to renovate the building into a restaurant, brewery and distillery.
I had a big vision for a commercial property that was previously used as the old train depot on Fourth Street.
On New Year’s Eve 2014, The Depot opened to the public. They had completely renovated the interior of the building with large windows, open seating and beautiful wooden flooring, tables and bar. The menu is very different from Louis next door. At The Depot, the menu is modern and people expect that. You can’t get away with family style serving, which increases the labor and food costs, but the concept is financially sound for both Louis & The Depot. In fact, even with The Depot opening next door, Louis had a 65% sales increase in the last five years.
At The Depot, the menu is modern and people expect that. You can’t get away with the family style serving that Louis has.
Chris attributes excellence in this venture to building expertise in the correlating things that make his business successful. For example, Chris studied finance and economics in college then started in commercial real estate investment in 2008. He learned how to review a project and identify the highest and best use for the real estate given the dynamics of the city and needs of Reno. Another key to excellence is to surround yourself with people you trust who compliment your skill-set and have the same passion for the business. Chris sees Brandon as the perfect partner at The Depot given his passion, expertise and brewmaster training from the World Brewing Academy in Chicago.
Build your expertise in correlating things that will make you more successful at your business and partner with someone who will compliment your skill-set.
The future plans for The Depot include growth on their manufacturing side in addition to an increase in draft accounts, or places that sell their beer and spirits. Right now they have 40-50 draft accounts in Reno, and they seek to expand to Truckee, Tahoe and Las Vegas. For the size of their operation, it doesn’t make sense to compete in 12 oz bottles because they cannot get economies of scale to be competitive. Instead, The Depot started packaging 750 ml format premium beers.
Right now we have 40-50 draft accounts in Reno, and we seek to expand to Truckee, Tahoe and Las Vegas.
The Depot is an incredible story of two old college roommates that envisioned a dream and brought it to life. I asked Chris his number one tip to maintain excellence and he said, Passion. While intelligence is important, don’t underestimate passion and its ability to make you work harder. He also said it’s important to be extroverted as it creates more opportunities for interactions with others that could be a positive influence.
While intelligence is important, don’t underestimate passion and its ability to make you work harder.
What business idea from college will you make a reality?