Standing near the Nectar Creek taproom bar Wednesday afternoon, 32-year-old co-owner Phil Lorenz almost let his emotions get the best of him while chatting with one of his regular customers.
“I was just talking to someone I see almost every day, five days a week, and seeing him made me tear up today,” Lorenz said. “It’s guys like that who have been the lifeblood of our business and it’s just hard to feel like I’m letting people down.”
Just 21 months after moving its operation into a new building in Philomath, Nectar Creek announced this week that it will serve its last pint of mead on Saturday as the production facility and taproom closes its doors.
Lorenz, who owns the business with his 29-year-old brother, Nick, said the decision came down to the bottom line.
“It was a business decision — really that’s where it starts and stops at,” Lorenz said. “At the end of the day, this was a business that wasn’t penciling out and so we had to make that decision.”
Nectar Creek’s business plan included the taproom and wholesale components. The taproom end of things worked well, but the Lorenz brothers couldn’t make much of a dent on the wholesale market.
“I think our taproom was very successful and the reason was it was successful was the local community,” Lorenz said. “The community of Philomath and the people that live in the foothills here have just been diehard supporters and we’ve loved them and they’ve loved us. I can’t say enough to that and we certainly have had sort of stop-through traffic, but the lifeblood of this taproom has been the locals.”
Small businesses trying to survive in the world of craft beer and specialty beverages certainly have their work cut out when it comes to competition.
“When we started this business seven years ago, there were about 2,000 breweries in the U.S. operating and now there’s over 7,000,” Lorenz said. “That’s just on the beer side, but were competing in that space and now there’s cider and there’s hard seltzer. ... I believe in our niche and I believe there’s a lot of opportunity in our niche, but to be successful in there, you have to have a lot of financial muscle.”
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Lorenz said he’s not sure if there’s one big takeaway from the experience of running Nectar Creek other than the importance of taking care of employees and stakeholders.
The biggest thing I will say is my brother and I really focused on taking care of our employees,” Lorenz said. “It has been a huge focus of ours since Day 1 and our employees have really taken care of us.”
Lorenz said he believes the employee roster was at around 23 and they had as many as 28 during the peak.
Back during an interview on Nectar Creek’s opening in January 2018, Lorenz mentioned that not producing and serving a mainstream product could either be their biggest advantage or one of their biggest hurdles.
“It was certainly a hurdle and it’s still a huge opportunity,” he said. “I still believe highly in the products that we made and the brand that we developed. I think the barrier of entry into the beverage industry is really high and we just had a hard time succeeding outside of the taproom.”
Red Dog Properties owns the building and land with Nectar Creek leasing the space. The complex features a 5,000-square-foot production space, 1,500-square-foot taproom and 2,000-square-foot patio.
“I’m not exactly sure what happens but this place is beautifully built out to be a community space and I’m certainly optimistic that it could refill as soon as possible,” Lorenz said.
The Lorenz brothers will have what they’re calling a “celebration of life” on Nectar Creek’s final day of business on Saturday.
“We just want to be present and show appreciation to the community as they’ve shown appreciation to us,” said Lorenz, who added there are no specific plans for the final night. “My brother and I will be bartending and we’re excited to say thank you to the community and move on.”
Lorenz doesn’t quite know what he and his brother will be doing next.
“My brother and I, you know, this is an incredibly emotional and sad thing and my brother just really are focused on taking care of the people that have taken care of us,” Lorenz said. “After we get through that, we’ll keep taking care of ourselves. We’re young and we have a lot of life left. This isn’t going to define our lives.”