Earlier this summer, Kalispell Brewing Company celebrated its fifth year of business. It’s a milestone that’s hard for me to grasp as the business I launched with my husband, Cole, feels like it’s been in operation much longer than a mere five years but also feels like it’s still so new. However, when I look back at the photos from our opening, and the two years prior with our seemingly endless renovation of 412 Main, I realize that we’ve grown, grown up as a small business, and aged. I have a lot more gray hair than I did in 2014.
Cole and I dreamed of our brewery the summer before we wed, and beer has been a part of our marriage. We had never opened our own business, never remodeled a massive brick building in a state of near-collapse, but somehow it happened. It took so much longer than we thought for all the crazy reasons that can happen when you’re trying to do a lot of the work yourself. We didn’t know how our version of craft beer, decocted brewed German lagers, would fare in Kalispell, but we gave it shot despite the fickleness of the beer itself, and the extensive time and labor that goes into that style. What we did know was that we loved beer and loved the space that breweries bring to communities, especially one like ours.
A fellow small business owner told me that owning your own is like drinking water out of a fire hose. He’s correct and, although our small brewery has expanded over the years and we have many more employees to help usher our dream into reality compared to when we first started, it still feels like we’re hit with a deluge. It’s at once exciting and inspiring, as well as frustrating and, at times, dispiriting. You’re constantly questioning each and every decision and learning to let go. You’re also steadying yourself against the waves of change, criticism and pressure to be someone or something that you’re not.
Yet, with the leap of faith and a bit of daredevilness that starting a company takes, what surprised me most was how much our community cared for our success. Strangers stopped by the construction site asking the big question: “When will you open?” That was followed by expressions of support. Friends, and now newly made friends thanks to the brewery, have been generous in their praise and have welcomed Cole and me and our growing family with open arms.
These are the experiences you can’t predict but can only hope for. And gosh, do I still feel giddy when I walk into the brewery and see smiling faces, someone that I know and the overwhelming support that comes when an entire community wants to see you thrive. Dear KBC fans, thank you kindly. You have no idea how your kind words can raise the spirits of an often exhausted and worried business owner. It’s what keeps Cole and me going. Here’s to five more years, and many more.
Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.