Episode 102

Hoptown Brewing Company

Meet Founders Scott and Sandy Plemmons

by | Apr 14, 2022

Show Notes:

Hoptown Brewing Company in Mooresville, NC was founded by a local couple that were crazy about craft beer. I call them reluctant entrepreneurs because honestly, it sounds to me like they were really content with retirement. But, as is often the case, the best small businesses are the ones that were founded by individuals that have a passion and love for their craft, not just for the chase of the almighty dollar.

The founders of Hoptown Brewing Company, Scott and Sandy Plemmons, join me to share the story of their entrepreneurial journey, and how Hoptown is actually the culmination of a craft beer journey that began almost 13 years ago.

It’s a very crafty episode 102 of Lake Norman’s number one small business podcast. Enjoy getting to know the founders of Hoptown Brewing Company, Scott and Sandy Plemmons.

Hoptown Brewing Company
107 Plantation Ridge Drive
Mooresville, NC 28117

Facebook & Instagram: @hoptownbeer

Local businesses recognized in this episode:

Brooklyn Boys Pizzeria
Cantina 1511 – Mooresville
Flock Bistro

Special thanks to our sponsors:

Transcript:

Narrator
Welcome to The Best of LKN, a podcast featuring the best small businesses and the most influential professionals around Lake Norman, North Carolina. Each week, we spotlight those businesses and individuals that are making a positive impact here in the Lake Norman area. Thanks for joining us, enjoy the show.

Jeff
Hello, and welcome back to The Best of LKN. This is Lake Norman’s number one small business podcast, where we work each and every day to elevate the Lake Norman small business community and introduce you to the best and brightest small business owners, entrepreneurs, freelancers, and leaders of local nonprofit organizations. I want to first give a shout out to our sponsors who make the work we do here at The Best of LKN possible. We appreciate the support of our sponsors and brand partners more than I could possibly say. I hope you’ll get to know these amazing people and their beautiful businesses by having a listen to their interviews. Each one of our sponsors were actually once guests on this podcast. You can find the links to their episodes on our homepage at thebestoflkn.com, or in the show notes for this episode. Speaking of this episode, we’re talking craft beer once again. Hoptown Brewing Company in Mooresville was founded by a local couple that were crazy about craft beer. I call them reluctant entrepreneurs because honestly, it sounds to me like they were pretty content with retirement. But as is often the case, the best small businesses are the ones that were founded by individuals who have a passion and love for their craft, not just for the chase of the almighty dollar. The founders of Hoptown Brewing Company, Scott and Sandy Plemmons, join me to share the story of their entrepreneurial journey and how Hoptown is actually the culmination of a craft beer journey that began almost 13 years ago. It’s a very crafty Episode 102 of Lake Norman’s number one small business podcast. Enjoy getting to know the founders of Hoptown Brewing Company, Scott and Sandy Plemons.

Jeff
Today I’m joined by the owners of Hoptown Brewing Company in Mooresville, Sandy and Scott Plemmons. Sandy and Scott, welcome to the podcast.

Scott
Thank you.

Sandy
Thank you.

Scott
Thank you for having us.

Jeff
Great to have you. Listeners know by now that craft beer is one of my favorite subjects, so always excited to feature another great craft brewery in the Lake Norman area. Appreciate you taking the time to join the podcast. Before we get into details about Hoptown Brewing Company, I wondered if you could share a little bit about your backgrounds and probably the inspiration behind starting the brewery is going to be tied in there. So, if you want to jump into that as well, what inspired starting the brewery, but who would like to go first Sandy or Scott?

Sandy
Go for it.

Scott
She says I’ll go first. Well, thanks again for having us. We’re excited to do this. We were coming up on a great spring and looking forward to kind of some normalcy here at the brewery and in our community. So, as you mentioned, I’m Scott Plemmons, I guess the founder of Hoptown Brewing. I’m a North Carolina native, born in Charlotte, but spent most of my career with Lowe’s Companies up in the western North Carolina area, which is eventually what brought me to the Mooresville area was working for Lowe’s Home Improvement.

Scott
Western North Carolina is a great place to spend a lot of your career. Where in western North Carolina?

Scott
I worked at several Lowe’s stores. Asheville, Hendersonville, Waynesville, Franklin, so I kind of had the western part of the state covered. Then I took an opportunity to move into the Charlotte area, several years into my career, and eventually to the corporate office, which at the time was up in North Wilkesboro. And then we relocated the office, of course to Mooresville, and that’s how I ended up here.

Sandy
Which is probably the only part of my bio that’s actually of any interest is because of our joint mutual Lowe’s background. That’s where we met, you know, that’s our history.

Scott
And the rest is history, that’s right.

Jeff
My oldest son lives in Hendersonville. And we love visiting Asheville and western North Carolina and it’s just beautiful out there.

Sandy
Great craft beer up there.

Scott
Absolutely.

Jeff
Yeah, yeah. Great place to visit, especially Asheville. So many cool, older craft breweries down there in downtown and surrounding area. Sandy, tell us a little bit more about yourself. Besides the Lowe’s background and meeting Scott at Lowe’s.

Sandy
I’m not a North Carolina native. I’m an Army brat. So, that took me all over the country and actually the world because I was born overseas but I’ve been here in the Carolinas now starting in Charlotte for 31 years. Feels like a long time. But no, I just worked marketing, advertising, sales, things like that until that brought me to Lowe’s as a marketing vendor to Lowe’s and then eventually into Lowe’s. Did not have an entrepreneurial upbringing. Did not have entrepreneurial parents. So, the fact that Hoptown is now my third entrepreneurial venture is kind of ironic. Had a wholesale baking business, you know, 20 plus years ago, then went to a yoga studio, and we’ll learn a little bit more about that later on. And then now Hoptown.

Scott
Yep.

Jeff
Very cool. I’m an Air Force brat myself, so I can relate. Yeah, where overseas were you born?

Sandy
Frankfurt, Germany,

Jeff
Okay. Yeah, I was born in Spain, and so young, I hardly remember most of it, and then moved around the US pretty much all my life. So yeah, I can totally relate. I did not have an entrepreneurial upbringing, either. So, maybe that’s a military thing. I’m not sure. Well, cool. Sandy, I look forward to learning a little bit more about these other ventures that you had, especially the yoga studio. I sense there’s a story there.

Sandy
An integral part of Hoptown, quite frankly.

Scott
Yes, absolutely.

Jeff
Well, let’s dive into that. What inspired the brewery and starting this brewing company?

Scott
Sure. Well, I’ll take that one. I think there’s kind of just several phases of Sandy and I kind of getting into this into this space, but it does go back to my Lowe’s roots again. Back many years ago now, we were having our national sales meetings out in Las Vegas. And I think even today, Lowe’s still has sales meetings in Las Vegas. I retired in 2009 and I stayed in touch with a lot of friends. Some are still there. Some have also retired, but many years ago, that was the location one of the largest gathering spots in the country. So, that’s where we ended up in Vegas. So, I fell in love with craft beer when we were attending sales meetings and the first craft beer that I remember enjoying was Fat Tire by New Belgium. That was my big, again, turn on to the craft beer industry. At the time you could not get any of the New Belgium beers east of the Rockies. So, I was very, when I came home, you know, back to drinking domestic beer in North Carolina. So, as Sandy and I met and started dating years ago, she picked up on my love for craft beer. And because she used to live out west, had some connections and had some New Belgium bombers, large bottle bombers, shipped a Fat Tire beer, shipped out to North Carolina, and presented that to me one year in an Easter basket. So, I knew it was true love when she went to that effort to find the beer and have it shipped out here for me, so that was pretty cool. So, then when you fast forward another couple of years, and

Sandy
But right after that is when I bought you a homebrew kit. I was trying to be the cool girlfriend. Knowing his love for craft beer, I bought him a homebrew kit.

Scott
And that yeah, that was our bonding, gonna be our bonding experience. So, we get this homebrew kit that she picked up over at Alternative Beverage, this was before I even knew Alternative Beverage in Belmont existed, which is a big brew supply store. So, she gets me this kit and we commence our first brewing project together, which was to brew an amber ale, once again, kind of picking up on the Fat Tire style of beer, so we decided to brew an amber ale. We did everything right, we thought, we packaged up 48 bottles, which is a typical five-barrel brew kit quantity. Packaged it up,

Sandy
It was an abysmal failure.

Scott
Put it in storage, had our first bottle, and realize maybe craft beer wasn’t for us. Brewing craft beer wasn’t for us.

Sandy
It was so bad.

Scott
We took the two cases or what remained of the two cases, and we stuck them in a storage building near our property, where we were living at the time. And then we were moving a couple years later and ran across this beer. So, we decided to pop another bottle and see if it had got any better and it hadn’t. So, we decided to dump what would be about 45 bottles of beer at that time. So, it was an abysmal failure as Sandy mentioned. Then fast forward a little bit more, we were up in the mountains visiting some friends and the gentleman that we were visiting with was a home brewer. And he had this Christmas ale that he had brewed. So, everybody there was drinking his Christmas ale, and it was really good beer.

Sandy
It was really good.

Scott
So, I said, Jack, you really got this thing figured out, I want you to help me. So, he kind of talked me through maybe some of our missteps. And so, when we got home, I was all inspired again. So, we pieced together what we could find of the kit, after we had moved, had to buy some more parts and pieces to reassemble this kit. And we brewed another beer, and it was another amber. It was named after a horse that we own called Durango. So, this was our Durango draft amber ale. And the beer turned out good.

Sandy
Yeah, it was good.

Scott
We shared it was some friends and everybody was kind of getting into it. And I was feeling pretty good about myself. And so, you know, following that experience, started kit brewing. Probably brewed another dozen or so kits. And at one point, somewhere along the way, I was introduced to what we call all-grain brewing in our industry. So instead of using extracts, we’re using real grain, which is a much more complex part of the process. But you know, after a little bit of trial and error, started brewing some all-grain beer, which was, you know, had turned out pretty good. So, sharing it once again with friends and some other home brewers. And I was feeling pretty good about what was going on. So, sort of parallel to this experience, enter the yoga studio that Sandy and her business partner were developing, or were building out. So, Sandy decided within the yoga studio, to have this community room where she’s going to be selling alcohol, beer, wine, kombucha, some other drinks. She said, hey, why don’t you start brewing commercially? And we can put your beer on tap at Let It Flow Yoga in Troutman. I said, okay, sounds pretty easy. Wasn’t so easy. I’ll digress just a moment. So, as I was brewing these homebrew kits in the kitchen of our house, Sandy really couldn’t stand the smell.

Sandy
Or the mess.

Scott
Or the boil overs that were really messing up our stove. So, we were remodeling at our property and building another little, small building. And within that small building, she said, hey, why don’t you put a small nanobrewery in this building? So, as we’re building out this building, we decided to kind of do it right, we put the floor drain in that was required, we put the ventilation system in, fire suppression, did all these things thinking that somewhere down the road, perhaps I might be able to, you know, brew more, I guess professionally, if you will. So, parallel again to her opening the yoga studio, I’m learning more and more about all-grain brewing and brewing on this somewhat larger system, still a nano brewing system, and then went down this path of getting my brewer’s notice, which is federal approval to brew beer, and my ABC permit for manufacturing and distribution and special events. So, the two projects, her yoga studio and my obtaining these permits, kind of came together at the same time. And when she opened the studio, I started supplying her, I was one of her suppliers for beer.

Sandy
But it was under a different name at that time.

Scott
Yeah, which is an interesting story in and of itself. The original name for our brewery was Hootenanny Brewing.

Jeff
Yeah, I noticed that on, oh gosh where did I notice that, on the website, I think?

Sandy
Probably.

Scott
Probably found it on the website.

Sandy
Which circles back to Lowe’s.

Scott
Right, right.

Sandy
Because of the original sales meetings.

Scott
Yeah, Hootenanny is really, it’s a gathering of friends with live music and food, and to most people a Hootenanny is just a party. When we were at Lowe’s back in the early days, hootenannies were our national sales meetings. So, we thought Hootenanny is kind of a fun name, it would resonate with people in the Mooresville area because a lot of Lowe’s retirees or current employees might remember the hootenannies. So, Hootenanny was a fun name. So, that was the first name that we launched our brewery under, which I’ll talk in a few minutes about why we made the change to Hoptown, but back to the story. So, Sandy’s yoga studio opens, we’re supplying, I’m supplying beer, a couple of kegs here and there. And at the same time, I’m selling some other retailers within the Iredell County area.

Scott
He got bored selling beer just to yoga studios.

Scott
I didn’t have a lot of capacity, but I had enough capacity to sell more than what her yoga studio could sell. So, I went into some other areas, started doing, did a tap takeover at Lowes Foods, which was a lot of fun and pretty successful.

Sandy
It kind of had a cult following at that point.

Scott
Yeah, that was a little bit of a launch I guess for our brand, albeit still small nano brew house.

Sandy
I think we were the smallest commercial licensed brewery in North Carolina at that time.

Scott
Yeah, and probably one of the only, at least within our area, brewery that was located in our, basically our backyard. And once again, because of meeting this criteria of the federal and state authorities, we were able to build this legal brewery on our property. So that was a, you had a lot of brewers call me, hey, how did you make this happen? How did you do this? They were very interested in walking out the back door to their brewery and then back into the house for lunch. It just so happened, everything kind of worked out this way. So, getting my name out into the community through special events, we gave a lot of, donated a lot of beer to two different charities. That was one way of sort of having fun with it, getting our name out, but doing something, you know, good for the community as well. So, that was the best way again, for word of mouth to spread. So, as you know, we’re getting our name out and continuing to Sandy selling it at her studio and doing a lot of these events, people were asking about a taproom. When are you going to open a taproom? We would love to be able to go somewhere, sit down and have a Hootenanny beer. Well, that was not in the cards originally, it was never part of

Jeff
Easy for them to say, right?

Scott
Easier said than done.

Jeff
Yeah.

Sandy
We were kind of retired.

Scott
Yeah, having retired in 2009, and did a little consulting after that. Yeah, opening a brewery was not on the horizon for us, or opening a taproom. Well, more and more people were asking and then I had some people interested, hey, if you ever do this, we would like to be part of, you know, what your endgame is, which would be a taproom. Started looking at a lot of what I would call kind of second-use locations, and more industrial-type locations. Second-use spaces, third-use spaces.

Sandy
And he was doing that without telling me.

Jeff
Smart man.

Scott
Yeah, just, you know, trying to at the same time, just trying to figure out if that’s really what I wanted to do, put myself back into it. As Sandy said, she’s not, wasn’t an entrepreneur, I’m not an entrepreneur, having worked for corporate America for over 30 years, or Lowe’s Home Improvement, in the corporate environment. You know, everything was obviously very structured. So, this was a big, big leap of faith for she and I, as we’re getting into this. So after, gosh, probably a year’s worth of site visits and discussions with potential investors, building out this business plan that would support a taproom. I was in the old Brushy Mountain Outdoors building, which is over off of Williamson Road in Mooresville, which is an outdoor clothing store. And I knew the owners really well, I knew the landlord for the building as well, and started talking to them about what the future was going to be, you know, for their business. And one day when I was in there, they said, hey, I think we’re going to move out of the area, we’re gonna open up another business out of the area, we’re probably going to put this building on the market. Again, knowing the landlord, went to him immediately and said, hey, I love your space, I’ve always loved this space, would you consider letting us have it or selling it to us for a brewery and he was all in. So, that’s how we landed on, ultimately the location, which is at 107 Plantation Ridge Drive in Mooresville. So, it was basically a year of

Sandy
It was a square box. We had to do a lot to it.

Scott
It was a square box, 3000 square feet. So, we took this box, but prior to that, we did a lot of work with the zoning, local zoning authorities to make sure that what we were doing was going to be approved before we ever went that far with it. Looking at the demographics of the of the trade area to make sure that we were putting a brewery in a spot where people would support a brewery, and everything kind of checked out. So, in 2019, December of 2019, we purchased the building. And of course, here comes COVID, right?

Sandy
We didn’t know it at the time. We were just plugging along, getting our architect.

Scott
We had everything in place, we had an architect and contractor laid out for the project and started preliminary construction. And then COVID hit. So, going through 2020, it was very, obviously very challenging. We’re fortunate in that we did not have to open, try to open a taproom in 2020 like a lot of our peers did.

Sandy
We just kept pumping the brakes and pumping the brakes and people would drive by and see that our sign would say open summer of 2020. And then we put a hash mark through it. And then we said 2021. And people were like, wait a minute, when is this going to open?

Scott
Yeah. So, we through 2020 again, a lot of construction delays, everybody on the team had COVID at one time or another, it felt like, so we were missing a lot of time. But as Sandy mentioned, just, we weren’t very, we weren’t in a big hurry to try to get this open into the environment that existed at the time. So, roll around to 2021, and we were through all of this period of time still, you know, trying to figure out what our name was going to be, what the entity of the building would be. Was it going to be Hootenanny? Was it going to be some other name? So, we ran into an issue, which was one of the reasons we changed the name, but not the main reason we changed the name to Hoptown, and that was trademark.

Jeff
Yeah.

Scott
Yeah, we thought we had the name secure. And as we dug deeper and deeper and hired a trademark attorney, realized that it was a slippery slope that we probably didn’t want to go down. Because ultimately, you know, someone could decide they didn’t want to share the name, or they felt like there was a conflict of interest. So, we decided to change the name. So, we did this name search. And we liked hop, we wanted to be community oriented, we’d liked town, but we didn’t pull, really pull the two together until the end, we said, well, you know that we looked at Mooresville Brewing Company, we looked at Coddle Creek Brewing Company, Deep Well Brewing Company, we came up with all these names that were kind of meaningful to the area. But none of those really resonated well with us or our investment group, so we landed on Hoptown. It was to suggest obviously beer and to suggest community, and that’s where we pulled the two together. So, during this build-out period, we’re playing around with the name and names of our beers and kind of redirecting our beer name strategy to more fit Hoptown versus Hootenanny. So, that was happening during this build-out process. March 22, 2001, we opened the doors on Hoptown Brewery.

Jeff
2021?

Scott
2021.

Sandy
About, I think at our one year.

Scott
Yes.

Jeff
Wow. Congratulations. Yeah, well, I mean, fortunately, you weren’t built out and ready to open at the end of 2019 or early 2020. We mentioned before we hit record, I’ve had a few, a couple of craft breweries featured on the podcast. One that comes to mind is Royal Bliss. I think they opened, they literally opened their doors a week or two before all of the closing and shutdown orders happen. And I’ll have to go back, I might be mistaken, that could be Lost Worlds I’m thinking of, but both opened around the same time. So, right before, you know, March of 2020. Yeah, trademark issue doesn’t surprise me. I kind of had a feeling that that might have been the reason why you didn’t stick with the name Hootenanny. It reminds me of Famous Toastery. When they franchised, obviously, they began as Toast in Davidson and quickly found out that they weren’t going to be able to franchise that name. So, thus Famous Toastery was born.

Sandy
Well, it’s super hard in the beer industry. Because trademarks can be a name of a beer, a name of a wine, a name of a spirit, the name of the business within it, so people struggled to come up with beer names that they can trademark just simply because it could be tacked to a wine or something. It’s just crazy.

Scott
We’ve learned a lot about trademarking through the process.

Jeff
Oh, yeah, I believe it. It’s hard enough to find a dot com URL that’s not taken, let alone like the hundreds of thousands of different types of names for beers and spirits and wines. I can’t even imagine. Yeah, and so shopping around for properties, not letting Sandy know really that you’re kinda looking around. That’s funny. I’ve definitely learned since becoming self-employed 10 years ago that I have new ideas every day and I’ve learned to kind of sleep on them before I share these ideas with my wife. Otherwise, I might get the eyeroll.

Sandy
He might have had a few eye rolls. Like really?

Scott
Yeah, as I mentioned, we originally were looking for, you know, kind of a second use, as I said, or third-use space, so buildings that had become, they were something else once or twice before, which is a great vibe for a brewery. A lot of breweries are built on that sort of industrial, very industrial type feel.

Jeff
Yeah.

Scott
Which we tried to do, employ some of that into our space, be it was only a five-year-old building, six-year-old building at the time, but we just fell in love with the architecture of the building.

Sandy
And the location, location, location.

Scott
We had some tradeoffs with the spot versus a larger location that would be somewhat off the beaten path, if you will. Which we can kind of talk about when we get into a little bit more about the building itself.

Jeff
Well, let’s talk about Hoptown itself. What kind of beers do you, is there a certain style of beer that you gravitate toward, that you and the team specialize in? Or what are some examples of beers, and what can guests kind of expect when they go to Hoptown?

Scott
Sure. Well, if it’s okay, I want to talk just a second, kind of a precursor to the beer is the brewer that we hired, and I was the Hootenanny Brewer, had very little beer education other than drink and enjoy craft beer. I went to Appalachian State University in the 80s, and when Boone was dry, and you had to drive to Blowing Rock to get any beer, any alcohol at all. So, I went back a few years ago to attend a fermentation science short course, where they put beer in front of you at eight o’clock in the morning. And you’re literally doing sensory work all day. So, you’re drinking beer on and off all day, which is such a contrast to my earlier years up in Boone. But once we decided to open this taproom, it became evident that I was not going to be able to help run the taproom, build out the business, be involved in all aspects. I do a lot of the administration with Sandy on Hoptown and realized I needed to hire a brewer. Someone that had big brew house experience, not just nano brew house experience, like myself. So, we did a search, and we found a brewer, his name is Turner Humphries. And Turner really gets credit for, you know, the quality of beer that Hoptown produces today. He had a beer education, from Siebel that he also worked in Australia for Moon Dog, he worked at Oskar Blues in Brevard, and then most recently worked at Triple C in Charlotte, which I’m sure you’re familiar with Triple C, one of the first breweries in Charlotte.

Jeff
And Oskar Blues. Yeah, really cool brewery, yeah.

Scott
So, Turner, again, came to us with this wealth of experience. And he knows his wines, he knows his beers, so he’s been a really good authority for us as we were picking our wine selection for Hoptown, which we’ll talk about in a few minutes. But so, we hired our head brewer, we hired a cellarman, his name is Ben Rieland. And Ben started out with us as just a beer tender, who decided he wanted to get his beer education as well. So, he’s attending the AB Tech fermentation science program. So, he works in the cellar. So, we have two employees that work in the brew house right now. But Turner, with his experience, and he and I were definitely on the same page that when we opened Hoptown, we wanted the beer to kind of represent all styles. We kind of start on the light end. We have blondes we have golden ale, we have lagers. And we, of course, have usually a fairly large selection of IPAs. Both West Coast and Hazy’s East Coast-style IPAs. Turner likes to brew. He likes to keep our beer wall really fresh. And based on the amount of, called fermentation tanks in our brew house, we have many small tanks versus few large tanks. So, we’re able to turn our beer board pretty regularly, which keeps it interesting. We’re typically releasing a new beer about every week and a half to two weeks. Something that hasn’t been on the wall before. We have, again Hazy’s, we have West Coast, we have an amber ale, we have dark beers right now. If you walked into Hoptown, you’ll see that breath of light to dark represented pretty well any given day of the week. Porters, stouts, brown ales, sours, he really does a good job of brewing across the whole spectrum of styles of beer, so we’re very excited about that. We have a couple of flagship beers. One that we have named Wedding Crasher, which was a carryover name from Hootenanny, but we just love the name and that’ll be the beer that we here in the near future we’ll be canning as our first canning run of beer. We have a milk stout called I’ll Have Another, which is obviously a play on words that was a carryover but beyond those two beers and styles, you know, Turner has really taken the reins and run with everything else that we have on our wall lately.

Scott
We’ll talk a little bit in a few minutes about Sip it Forward. But you know, one of the things that we charged him with when we were opening the brewery is to come up with a blonde ale that is extraordinarily drinkable, because that’s what we wanted to use for our charity beer. So, he created the recipe for Sip it Forward.

Jeff
Yeah, I look forward to diving into the Sip it Forward initiative that you guys created. I love that initiative. And it was actually brought to my attention by a previous guest, which we’ll mention in a minute. But Scott, getting back to your description of the process of hiring a brewer and hiring staff, and it brought to mind a topic that comes up in almost all of my conversations with entrepreneurs and small business owners, and that is that the entrepreneur can’t wear all the hats, right? We have to have a team. And that’s so critical to be able to get the right people on the bus, so to speak, to quote, a very famous book, and basically hire the right team that can do the job. So, that don’t have to be micromanaged, that can, you know, really help grow the business.

Scott
Absolutely. And, you know, it goes without saying it’s a pretty challenging environment, you know, to try to hire people in, but we’ve, Sandy, I give her credit. She’s, as I’ve sort of been the GM of the operation trying to work with, you know, the attorney on ABC, TTB compliance and getting labels approved, you know, for new beers that are coming up. And Sandy’s really been managing the front of house, so to speak. And so, I give her a lot of credit for putting a really good team together.

Sandy
Gosh, we have such an amazing team, I think, and we get compliments constantly. I think people when they walk in the door, and they see these, you know, really energetic, happy smiling faces. It just sets kind of the tone for the whole brewery.

Scott
Really does.

Jeff
I love that, I can tell by the way, Sandy, that you’re describing that, that you just love your team.

Sandy
They are good people. They work hard, and they’re good people.

Jeff
That’s so cool.

Scott
I want to mention too, if it’s okay, you know, beyond your, one thing that we knew going into this, not unlike other breweries, but you need to have more than just beer to satisfy the tastes of other people that may be coming in. We always kind of describe the husband or the wife comes in because they love beer. And the other is kind of left there with very limited options. In some cases, you know, if it’s a wine, it’s a, oh we have one red, one white, you know, which one do you want? So, we were very intentional about the non-beer, you know, beverages that we have at Hoptown. For example, we have handpicked two reds and two whites that are changed seasonally in the wine category. We have a natural organic wine in our lineup that is rotated pretty frequently. For those that really understand that space. We have kombucha, we have cider, we have seltzer. We have Prosecco. We have a wall for a lot of different Mimosa, flavored mimosas. A lot of non-alcoholic beverages in our coolers. So, we try to have something for anybody that walks into Hoptown. If it’s not a beer, it’s going to be something else. We have a beer on nitro. That’s one thing that I think does differentiate us a little bit from some of the other breweries in the area, is that we have a nitro beer. So, we typically will take one of our dark beers coming up and we’ll split a batch. We’ll do half of it regular CO2, and half of it with nitrous gas to appeal to that customer.

Jeff
That’s cool. I do love a nitro beer. That’s really cool. You mentioned have it being able to accommodate those who may not be into the craft beer. And Sandy had mentioned the drinkability of the Sip it Forward ale, which we’ll talk about in a second. But it sounds like you have an amazing selection of beverages to really appeal to a wide variety of guests, which is really, really cool. I love that you do that. I want to talk about the Sip it Forward initiative. And I want to give a shout out to Jason Hayes, the executive director at the Lake Norman Humane. He was a guest on the podcast, and we loved having him and featuring Lake Norman Humane on the podcast. And he had brought up the Sip it Forward initiative at Hoptown in our conversation and given Hoptown a big shout out. And I know that Lake Norman Humane last year was one of the beneficiaries of the Sip it Forward campaign. Sandy, share for listeners who may not be familiar with what you’re doing there with the Sip it Forward campaign, and share some details about that.

Sandy
Sure, I’d love to. It’s kind of my baby. We wanted to make sure, Hootenanny was, part of its DNA was about giving back to the community. And Scott mentioned about the charity support and the money that we were able to participate in raising for charities through our donations with Hootenanny. My yoga studio as well, we had a charity twist, what we did on Monday nights, and giving back to different charities that we brought in. So, we knew that moving forward with Hoptown, we wanted to be able to make it really powerful, and in a big way. So, Sip it Forward was a brainchild by looking at a couple of different breweries throughout the state and how they were doing some different things. And we wanted to make sure that we kind of cherry picked the best of the best of the ideas that we could come up with to create this program. I love that we were able to trademark Sip it Forward, because everyone knows what Pay It Forward means. And with that is exactly what we’re doing. So, every person that comes into the brewery and orders a pint of Sip it Forward beer, which again, is a very drinkable blonde ale, anybody could enjoy it, gets a token and that token is worth $1. We have a sip wall, and it’s a big wall that says Sip it Forward with our logo, and it’s got kind of an acrylic drop box, if you will. Above each one of the shoots, is labeled one of the four annual charities that we support. And we decided to do four annual charities so that we were not every month, spreading ourselves thin and giving $500 here or $1000 there or a couple gift cards here. We wanted to do something that would be a part of these charities for an entire year, to allow them the opportunity to use us either as a passive fundraiser for them, or an active fundraiser. And we love Jason and the Lake Norman crew over there. And he has used us enormously this year. And I’ll talk a little bit about the Brew Spokespuppy that one recently, but people come, and they drop their token in one of the slots to support one of those charities. And we will have continued to, as the tokens go to the top, we drain it, we record the amount, and that’s a continual process throughout the year. And at the end of the year, we will write a check for 100% of all the money that was raised for each of the charities. And we are coming up on March 22nd, off anniversaring, is that a word? Anniversaring out the four current charities and bringing on our four new charities for 2022/23. And we’re really excited because tallies are not finished. But we probably think will be, you know, well, well above what we had anticipated to begin with. So, fingers crossed, we’re excited about that. Jason did not use this as a passive fundraiser. He said, hey, I got this idea. And we said yeah, let’s do it. So, they were able to have a contest, a photo contest, that raised $13,000 for them. And one of the, you know, one of the awards or the winnings was to have a beer named after the winner, and they got their picture, their little dog Siena’s picture on our crowler cans. And so, we have right now on our wall, it won’t always be there, but right now we have Siena’s Stout. And that was Siena’s fur mama created that with Turner, that came up with the idea, and it was a lot of fun. But I was just really excited that they were able to come up with an idea that then went beyond what we’re doing within the brewery and create even more income for them on the other side. So, that’s Sip it Forward.

Sandy
I love that. Siena’s Stout. Can you send me a photo of Siena?

Sandy
I absolutely will.

Jeff
Send me a photo, we’ll share that on social and that’s such a cool initiative. I love that. Lake Norman Humane was one of the 2021 beneficiaries of Sherry Pollex’s organization. Was she another one?

Sandy
Yes, we had Martin Truex, Jr. and SherryStrong as kind of a combo together. They’re all at the same organization. She is an ovarian cancer initiative, she’s a survivor, but her initiative for SherryStrong is ovarian cancer and the Martin Truex, Jr. Foundation as a whole, is childhood cancer. We had Fifth Street Ministries, specific to My Sister’s House, and then the last of the four, well obviously, Lake Norman Humane, and the last of the four was FeedNC, and they’ve done a lot with us as well this year. Our four new charities, can I go ahead and just give a shout out to them?

Jeff
Yes, absolutely.

Sandy
We’ve got the Food For Days backpack program. We’ve got the Sheldon’s K9s. We’ve got Hope of Mooresville. And we’ve got, what am I missing? K9s, Hope, oh, The Dove House, gosh, how did I forget that?

Jeff
That’s really cool, The Dove House. Actually, I have a call tomorrow with the executive director at the Dove House to talk about an upcoming recording with her for the podcast. So very, very cool. I love that. Yeah, those are all great choices. And FeedNC has been mentioned quite a few times on the podcast by local businesses that have created campaigns to help them out and a wonderful organization. I need to, that’s another one we’d love to feature on the podcast as well, so I’ll be reaching out to them in the near future. I love the initiative. I love the idea. It’s creative. And it’s wonderful that you give back to these organizations, that you help, like, raise them up and lift them up and support them. I really love that.

Sandy
Well, it’s also I think a part, people feel that they have an active part in this fundraising, too. It’s not just, you know, behind the scenes. It’s right there and it’s tangible. Take that token, walk over, make your selection.

Jeff
Absolutely. Very cool. Well, we will share more details on social, of course, about the Sip it Forward initiative, and we’ll be keeping tabs on everything going on at Hoptown. We’re running a little short on time, I wanted to jump into, we’ll make this kind of a lightning round. I love to feature other local, small businesses. I always love to ask my guests if they will give a few shout outs to local small businesses. And they could be, a lot of times they’re local businesses that have been good partners for your business. And otherwise, they can just be great businesses that you and your team love in the area. With full knowledge that we have 80 or 90 or 100 that we would love to recognize, but just in the context of this conversation, are there a couple that you can share?

Sandy
I think for the context of this conversation, we really need to give a shout out to our food partners. We don’t have a restaurant at Hoptown, but we have a program called Second Kitchen, and it’s kind of a concierge between us and our two food partners so that you can come to Hoptown, you can scan a QR code, and you can have either Brooklyn Boys Pizza and their menu delivered right to the brewery, or Cantina 1511. And it’s super seamless. People love it. And we have, we’re constantly seeing pizza boxes come in out or Mexican trays come in and out. It works really, really well. And then last but not least, we carry fresh charcuterie in our cooler, and that charcuterie is supplied to us by Flock. Bistro, which is also in Morrison Plantation. So, I think the shout out needs to go to our three food partners for that.

Scott
Definitely.

Jeff
I love that shout out. Brooklyn Boys Pizza, I’ve heard of, I haven’t tried it myself. I need to. I’ve heard they’re awesome. Cantina 1511 I love. Great, great partner there, and Flock. Bistro, I will look them up and check them out for sure. And I’ll have links, of course, in the show notes. One final thing I want to ask you about. And this is selfish, because I can always use this advice for myself, but also, we do have small business owners and entrepreneurs and those who are just kind of starting out on their entrepreneurial journey that listen and follow the podcast. And I would love for you to share any basic advice, anything you’ve learned over the last year or two that kind of stands out that you would share as advice for those who might be considering starting their own business. And again, the list I’m sure is long of things that you’ve encountered and learned over the last couple of years. But what kind of stands out?

Scott
Yeah, well, I’ll take that one. I think, for us, being an operator when I was at Lowe’s for most of my career, you know, due diligence was kind of, was really important. We were always held to our decisions, you know, using facts, as you know, versus maybe instinct. I think there’s a good blend of instinct and facts. But I like to tell people for Hoptown that took a year to, but really this brewery was four years in design. The first year was due diligence and understanding our market. And I’ve got more data than you would ever want to see about the customer, the traffic patterns, the growth of the county, the growth of the development that we’re in. So, you put all that into the equation and then, you know, so understanding zoning is very tricky. And, you know, we did, we basically were pre-approved for the project before we ever signed, you know, on the dotted line for the building. So, we knew that we had to have X number of parking places, we knew we had to have X number of restrooms, we knew our occupancy number was going to be driven from those factors. So, we worked very closely with the local town officials to make sure that we knew what we were doing before we ever did it. Or before we got too far. And then the second thing was a year of selling, you know, convincing the investors, our partners, that Hoptown was the right place to put their money. And then it was literally the third year was building it. And the fourth year was operating it, or we’re just coming up on our anniversary. So yeah, just due diligence, due diligence, due diligence. Making sure that, you know, there’s gonna be no, there will always be surprises, but trying to minimize those surprises.

Sandy
And make sure you really like your spouse.

Scott
Or your partner. Yeah.

Jeff
My wife and I joke about that a lot. How we, although we love each other deeply, we doubt we can be business partners. So, it’s not all fun and games, is it? It can be challenging.

Sandy
I think we surprised ourselves at how well we get along.

Scott
It’s been fun. It’s been fun.

Jeff
That’s really cool. Yeah, it can be obviously a really positive journey for a couple, for sure, to share that passion for that endeavor. That’s really awesome. Great advice. It also reminds me of some advice I got from a developer who was a guest on my Charlotte podcast a year ago. And he said, make sure you build enough runway for your business to take off. But, you know, before you launch that business, make sure you have enough runway. And so, it’s all about that preparation, right?

Scott
Yeah, that’s a great, great analogy. Sure is.

Jeff
Sandy and Scott, I really, really appreciate you joining the podcast. This has been great. I can’t wait to share this with the audience. I can’t wait to visit Hoptown and have a beer. Can you share again for the listeners, how they can learn more about Hoptown brewing and the location? Because, of course, the best way to learn about Hoptown Brewing is to visit the brewery.

Scott
Absolutely. Well, we’re pretty easy to find. If you’re in Mooresville, we are in Morrison Plantation, the address is 107 Plantation Ridge Drive. Most people know where Brewster’s Ice Cream is. They visited Brewster’s. It’s been there for years. We’re in the Harris Teeter shopping area of Morrison Plantation, next to Brewster’s Ice Cream.

Sandy
Our web address is hoptownbrewing.com. But I just encourage people all the time, follow us on Instagram and Facebook. It’s @hoptownbeer. That’s what we, just every week we’re putting stuff out. We have music, bingo, and trivia. We have a huge run club that goes on Tuesday nights. We’re about to have a team of beer tennis players on Monday nights. We’ve got live music on Friday and Saturdays and it’s so ever-changing that the best way is to always keep following us on Instagram, Facebook, so that you’re always knowing what’s happening that week.

Jeff
Yeah, we definitely keep Instagram and Facebook up to date a lot more than the website. I think that’s generally true for most businesses. Yeah, @hoptownbeer. That’s easy enough to follow.

Sandy
Yep.

Jeff
Excellent. I’ll have links in the show notes, of course. And, once again, Sandy and Scott Plemmons, owners of Hoptown Brewing Company in Mooresville. Sandy and Scott, thank you again so much for joining the podcast.

Scott
Thank you for having us. We enjoyed it.

Sandy
Thank you. Thanks for having us.

Jeff
Big thanks to Scott and Sandy Plemons for joining the podcast and sharing the story of Hoptown Brewing Company. Friends, you can learn more about Hoptown Brewing Company at hoptownbrewing.com and follow them on Facebook and Instagram @hoptownbeer. I’ll have those links as well as the links to the other local businesses and nonprofits Scott and Sandy recognized during our conversation in the show notes for this episode. As always, you can find the complete show notes for all of our episodes at the home for Lake Norman’s number one small business podcast and online resource www.thebestoflkn.com. Special thanks again to our sponsors for supporting the work we do here at thebestoflkn.com. The team and I are working every day at promoting and lifting up our local small business community. And our sponsors and brand partners are really the ones that make this possible. You can find links to our sponsors and brand partners on our homepage at thebestoflkn.com, and also in the show notes for this episode. Be sure to sign up for our weekly email newsletter. It is still the best way to show some support for the work we do here at The Best of LKN, and it doesn’t cost you a dime. You can find the form on our homepage at thebestoflkn.com. Simply enter your first name and email address and you’re good to go. We’ll send you an email every Thursday with links to our latest podcast episodes and blog articles featuring information and reviews of the best small businesses in the Lake Norman area. That’ll do it for this episode. Be sure to stop by Hoptown Brewing Company in Mooresville when you have a chance and tell them The Best of LKN sent you. We’ll be back next week with another episode. Same time, same place. So, until then, cheers Lake Norman. Bye for now.

Narrator
We hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of The Best of LKN. For more information about this podcast, show notes, video episodes, and links to our featured businesses, please visit www.thebestoflkn.com. We publish episodes weekly, so be sure to subscribe and stay up to date. Until next time, cheers Lake Norman.