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What do beer and gardens
have in common? Profits

Many brewing supply store owners have recently been forced to think of new and creative ways to sell their products. Many, unfortunately, have not made it.

If some of these closed shops had heard of the experience of Scott Day, maybe things could have been different.

Eight years ago, Day left California and moved to Livonia, Mich., to open a store called Brew and Grow with a partner. The name came from the store’s emphasis both on indoor gardening equipment and brewing supplies.

"We decided to open an adult toy store, more or less," Day said.

Even during homebrewing’s heyday, Day recognized he needed something else to sell besides brewing supplies. And although indoor gardening and homebrewing may seem like two totally different hobbies — well, they are — both have one thing in common:

They attract diehard customers who will stay for years with a shop that provides them good service and supplies.

Another reason Day selected homebrewing and indoor gardening supplies as products was because Livonia at the time did not have a dominant store in either field.

In other words, he made his store into something that was attractive to local customers. Because it is cold in Livonia during the winter, residents are unable to garden during much of the year, as they are in other parts of the country. So the hobby has attracted those interested in year-round fresh vegetables and fruits.

"You can create mother nature right in your house," he said.

Volume-wise, the store is split about 50-50 between brewing and gardening supplies. But revenue-wise, the store earns more from the gardening supplies, Day said.

One reason Day, 35, has been successful in both hobbies is because he provides quality ingredients. He began carrying White Labs yeast two years ago. He stopped ordering yeast from other companies soon thereafter because it expired before anyone bought it.

Customers were attracted to White Labs yeast because of the packaging and the results. "Everybody loves that stuff," he said.

In the meantime he is watching the homebrewing scene evolve and is somewhat puzzled that other stores have not branched out and attempted to attract a wider customer base. He has heard of stores selling bicycles and homebrewing supplies, but the list of stores focusing on things other than products for homebrewers is somewhat small.

Still, that did not stop him from advising a friend who was interested in opening up a homebrewing shop to offer something else. The friend did not take the advise and two years later he closed up shop.

Day probably won't be joining his friend anytime soon. In fact, he is branching out once again. He and a partner are seriously exploring the idea of contracting with a brewer to make their own beer, which they would then sell throughout the region.

Selling homebrewing supplies has not only opened his eyes to a fun and lucrative hobby, it also has also become a big part of his current and future business plans.

Why?

"Beer is a fun thing to love," he said.

Brew and Grow is located at 33523 Eight Mile Road, Suite F5, Livonia, Mich., 48152.