Home Back Issues September 2008 Tactics: Brian McMenamin of McMenamins

Tactics: Brian McMenamin of McMenamins

| Print |  Email
Archives - September 2008
Monday, September 01, 2008

BEYOND BEER


BrianMcMenamin Brian McMenamin holds forth on the future of his business at the Chapel Pub on North Killingsworth in Portland.  The pub is a renovated funeral home that  also is the company’s headquarters.

PHOTO BY ADAM BACHER

McMenamins is an Oregon-style empire — getting big but still working hard to be quaint. With more than 2,000 employees, last year the company reached $100 million in gross revenue, a major milestone for a business that was started by two brothers who just wanted to open a cozy pub.  

“That’s just a number,” owner Brian McMenamin says, trying to downplay the significance. There never was a steadfast strategy to get where they are, only the humble goal to offer up a good beer. “It’s more organic, not really planned out,” he says.

How many locations are there now? “I am not even sure,” he says. For the record, there are 55.

Despite the success, like many businesses McMenamins is feeling the squeeze of a struggling economy and rising commodity prices such as hops for brewing beer. “We raised prices, we had to,” McMenamin says. “Hopefully it’s just a blip on the radar.”

Known for helping pioneer the craft beer and brewpub craze in the Pacific Northwest, McMenamins has evolved into a stew of brewpubs, restaurants, entertainment venues and restored-buildings-turned-hotels. As the business grows larger another challenge besides the economy is to maintain the image of being small, while also being original with each new venture.

McMenamin smiles when he reflects on the days in 1980 when he was 21 and already the owner of a bar. Then in 1983, he and his older brother, Mike, opened the Barley Mill in Portland. The business expanded from beer making and brewpubs when the brothers bought the Edgefield Manor in 1990, a historic building on 74 acres in the Columbia River Gorge. It was restored into a one-stop shop for lodging, movies and live entertainment, golf, and even winemaking. They liked the “home-like” atmosphere of it.

“It was a natural progression for us,” he says. It was also accidental, because they only started buying old buildings because the brothers saw them as cheaper than newer ones. “We kind of stumbled into the history thing,” he says.

Creative adaptation has helped keep the company moving forward and distinguishing it from the increasing number of craft brewers in the region adopting its brew-pub model.

That adaption includes how McMenamins has recreated itself as a historic building rescuer by buying up old buildings and transforming them into a restaurant or hotel, or both. “We are just caretakers,” Brian says. “It has built-in history.” As this aspect of the business has grown, food sales and lodging now make up the core of their revenue, not beer.

Considering the portfolio of McMenamins locations throughout the Portland-metro area, Brian admits the real-estate bust and economic downturn has hit the business, maybe delaying a project or two, but he says it without apparent worry. Looking to the future instead, he sees other business opportunities. Eventually he wants to have a location in California. He also wants to expand into the baking business.

“We are nervous about being in a box,” McMenamin says. “We fight that every day.”              

JASON SHUFFLER


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

The Diaspora

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LEE VAN DER VOO

Former newspaper reporters move into brand journalism.


Read more...

Gone Girl

News
Monday, September 29, 2014
roundup-logo-thumb-14BY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

Wehby disappears, Kitzhaber fails to disclose and Seattle gets bike share before Portland.


Read more...

Measure 91: What Oregon Businesses Need to Know

Contributed Blogs
Wednesday, October 15, 2014
91 thumbBY DIANE BUISMAN

Some common misconceptions employers have about marijuana.


Read more...

Innovation: a critique

News
Wednesday, October 08, 2014
1008 innovation thumbBY LINDA BAKER | OB EDITOR

A Design Week panel discussion raises questions about how innovative we really are.


Read more...

Grape Expectations

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY HANNAH WALLACE

Well-financed outsiders from France and California are buying up vineyards and wineries in the Willamette Valley.


Read more...

Books Rule

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY JON BELL

Powell's stays relevant in the digital age.


Read more...

Gone Fishing

October 2014
Thursday, September 25, 2014
BY LORI TOBIAS

Business has been good to Laura Anderson, leading some to suggest she must be awfully lucky to find such success in a business notorious for failure. But luck’s had little to do with it.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS