What’s your biggest challenge right now? 

Well, right now I’ve got the business up for sale. And the reason why it’s up for sale is three doors down we’re going to be starting a brewery, small brewery, and a tasting room (Jokers & Rogues Brewing with John Callinan). And I can’t do both. And while I’m here I can’t tend to the brewery and get that going. I am transitioning and that’s my hardest part, right? My hardest thing right now. So what makes it challenging is that your attention is split. It’s split. And I can’t provide the attention that I need here. There’s a lot of work to be done before we even set up our equipment. So it’s like you gotta get in there and get busy. I see this ending at the end of summer, which is right on us. Opening, we’re hoping for early fall. We’re gonna make that, but we’re waiting on the federal license. As soon as we get that, you know, we’ll get the brew equipment in and get it running, get her dialed in.

Who has influenced you being in business?

Growing up, my stepfather (Bob Nowell) was a barber. He owned his own shop, a small shop in Farmingdale, Bob’s Barbershop. And he always worked for himself. Right out of school, and he just worked for himself and loved it — absolutely loved it. When I got out of college, I went to work for the government and didn’t really enjoy it. So when it came time for my midlife crisis, when my wife (Susan) was tired of me complaining, it was time to decide let’s do something. Let’s try something completely different. We opened this in 2012. Seven years.

(My stepfather) enjoyed cutting hair. I don’t enjoy cutting hair, but boy, I love — I love talking about beer. I love helping people with their beers, with their wines. I enjoy teaching. You know, it’s when they come in they are a little confused, but you see the look in their face when they get it and it’s like, “Oh, my God, this isn’t rocket science. This is easy, and it can be fun.”  I love that. I really love that.

When you have a retail shop, you’re a slave to the open sign. You are, you’re absolutely a slave. (When people go into business for themselves) they do have the idea that you sit behind the counter and collect the money, and there it is and life is good. Yeah. That’s part of it. But most of it is getting things ready for (customers) to come in, being prepared for that. Being able to take care of them when they’re here, you know, giving them a good experience. Yeah. (Building a customer relationship) is really important in this business. They have so many options of where they could buy. Not so many brick and mortar anymore, but, you know, online and everything. They can go wherever they want. So you’ve got to provide them a good experience, make them feel good.

When do you know when it’s time to make a change? 

That’s a really good question. I don’t know that I’m going to have a good answer for you. You don’t ever know for sure. You really don’t. You can kind of go by your heart and see what your stomach — what feels right to you, what kind of makes sense for you to do. It’s always good to push yourself into something that you’re not comfortable with. Whether you’re starting a business or starting another business or whatever, you should be afraid. I mean, afraid in a good way. If you’re not scared, you’re not thinking that through. There should be some fear, but it should be good for you. Not a dread, a real excitement to keep that fire burning. When that excitement is gone, when you stop looking forward to coming into your shop every day, seeing your customers, when you start losing that, it’s time to go.

Some people just like the comfort of the status quo you know, and I am not one of them. Something’s got to pique my interest. I gotta have something that’s not just mundane, the same thing day in and day out.

What advice would you offer someone considering making a change? 

Do your homework, you know, research, whatever change you are looking at. Just do your homework. Talk with people that do it. It might not be in the same industry, you know, it might be a completely different lane, but talk to people that do it, and they can kind of let you know some of the things that you don’t know. Through your research, try to get your ducks in a row at home money-wise. Plan for the worst. Hope for the best, but plan for the worst. You’re starting a business, it takes time and takes money. Get your finances in order so that you can weather the storm, go through the bad parts to get to the good parts.

We’ve been working on that for a few years. I was coming home every night complaining to my wife about my job, and she was like: Figure out what you want to be when you grow up and do it. And in the meantime, we were paying off bills and shoveling money at stuff and putting some money away. My wife, she’s not my business partner here in the shop, but oh my God, she’s a big part of why we’ve been here for seven years. Without her, I couldn’t have done it. She has been my biggest cheerleader.

Where do you think you’ll be in five years? 

Not sure. I’m hoping I’ll be at the brewery cranking out some of the best beers Maine has ever seen. But who knows? Whatever it is, I’m sure I’ll have fun on the ride.

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