A Small Business Story

Covid was hard for the little man. They did not have the resources or the established name to make it through this difficult time. It was even harder for those small restaurants and microbreweries that could not compete with the ones that have a corporate office and can continue to pump money into an establishment in order to keep it alive during this period when hanging out at a place like this is not safe and cannot happen. There are many empty buildings that highlight all of the businesses that did not make it through this period, but it is nice to see the smaller businesses that did make it through. These were the places that were meant to be because they had a product that could withstand the tribulations of this trial. One of these places hangs out on the corner of Prince and Littleton is downtown Littleton called Jackass Hill Brewery.

Now before I tell this story, I do think that it is important for me to explain that part of the reason I have come to this place is because my father’s cousin (which I think makes him my first cousin one time removed, but this is where things get confusing so do not hold me to that definition) is part owner of this establishment. I know that makes it sound like I have a say in trying to help him make it successful and I have written about this microbrewery before, but in full disclosure, I have not been able to come back for two years because I have been living abroad. I did not write about it during the time when it needed it most and it could have helped them make it through the pandemic. This is a story about how they survived the pandemic, and why they are still where they are today.

The last time I visited Jackass Hill Brewery was right before I left for Thailand, and they had been open for only a couple of weeks. They already had an established name from the brewer selling his beer out of his house on top of Jackass Hill, a famous stretch of road that connects Prince Street to Mineral Avenue in Littleton, but this was more of a public announcement of the great beer he was making. It isn’t that big of a place, as it has a bar inside with a couple of tables, and it spills out into the parking lot outside where they have a bunch of picnic tables. They don’t bottle their beer, but you can come out and get a growler filled. They also don’t have a real kitchen. When I went there first, they rented out another part of the parking lot to food trucks, but have since bought their own food truck where you can buy ten different items on a very select menu. The focus of the place is and always will be the beer, which, by the way, from the perspective of a long time beer snob is very good. They have a great Last Man Standing IPA, and fulfilling espresso porter.

It was a great model for a business as long as people kept walking through the door. It took a little bit of time for them to create a name for themselves, but they were able to do it in the first six months and were getting ready to become a steady presence in downtown Littleton.

And then Covid hit.

Businesses had to close down to keep people safe. Restaurants were allowed to sell food to go, and for a brief hour early into the pandemic, people made a mad rush to their liquor stores to buy a supply of drinks when the governor declared that liquor was not an essential services. Luckily that did not last long. It might have had something to do with the panic the announcement caused.

This allowed Jackass Hill Brewery to survive. People could run in and get a growler or two of beer. I don’t think they were able to sell the food, and to get by on only beer made things difficult, but they were able to sell enough of it to say that they had survived the pandemic and they are still around today. But it really came down to the customers that kept them around. They made the effort to make sure that the company survived. They could have gone to their local liquor store to buy their beer. There is not shortage of craft beer at the liquor and grocery stores in Colorado, so it meant something more that these people would continue to come to Jackass Hill Brewery to keep that around. It wasn’t just the beer that they loved. It was the atmosphere of the establishment that they wanted to see at the other side of this dark tunnel we have all traveled through. They wanted this small business to survive, and they are the ones that kept it open.

These are the kinds of stories I have been enjoying during my stay in the United States. It is nice to know that the quality small companies out there had a strong enough product that they were able to have those loyal customers come back to keep them around. I am glad that Americans decided to spend their money here instead of the big corporations that would survive no matter what happened. There is a passion in those small business’s product that you will not find in those bigger organizations, and this is what America needs right now, that passion.

You might not live close to Jackass Hill Brewery, but you know organizations like it. So go out and find your Jackass Hill Brewery and give them the business that they need so we can continue to let the heart and soul of America surivive.

A Change for Downtown Littleton

The sunset from the View House in downtown Littleton.

Last night, I got to travel to my old stomping grounds of Downtown Littleton. It is the place I used to work as a bartender, and the building which housed the brewery still stands though the brewpub is no longer in operation. It is not the only changes that have come from this quaint section of metropolitan Denver. A street that was filled with barber shops and dive bars has turned into a neighborhood filled with apartment buildings and high-end restaurants. The only thing that is holding this place back is the main streets that have cars traveling through to get to busier parts of the city. I was told that during the pandemic that they closed off the streets and allowed these restaurants to spill their tables out into the roads so they could stay in operation. It created something that could be found in Europe with the walking streets, giving it a feel of something more out of the 18th century rather than modern times. If they would just add cobblestones over the pavement, they would have something spectacular. People would take the light rail from Denver to this exciting location, and certain buildings that have remained empty might actually get filled up again, adding more to the atmosphere.

There are other places that I know of that would benefit from this kind of arrangement, downtown Castle Rock in Colorado, and downtown West Linn in Oregon, but I also know the biggest argument against them as well. The roads that would be closed happen to be main thoroughfares that would have many motorists mad if they were changed into a place where only walking people could go. These places already have sidewalks, and people can wait for the lights to change before they walk across the street.

I do understand their points, but at the same time, the pedestrian outdoor areas are the busiest places in Europe. They are always filled with tourists looking for ways to spend their money. They also add a certain amount of charm to the cities they reside in, making people want to visit more. There are a couple of these locations in Colorado that I know of: Pearl Street in Boulder, Old Town in Fort Collins, and 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, and they are always busy. As some of the older parts of smaller towns are looking to revive their older parts of town, I can see them eventually make this slight change to bring back the business they lost, and this is the best time to do it. Many of these proposed locations did the same thing that downtown Littleton did during Covid, and they can see how the conversion can transform their part of town.

Bend is proposing to do this right now with Minnesota Avenue. Some of the trendier restaurants in Bend are on this street, and they want it to stay the pedestrian mall that they had during the Covid crisis. The town is currently considering this, but it is meeting with the same resistance that other places will meet, traffic, and why should people put up with this for something that will only be in use for at most six months out of the year.

It is just a trend that I noticed last night as I visited the place where I used to work, and I wonder if it will take hold or not. I am pretty sure that if it does, it will take a couple more decades before it is considered because the American society is not ready to go there yet, but I am sure there will be a couple more of them popping up from time to time as towns start to see the benefit to them.