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From pulling teeth to pouring brew
Haines opened beer store after working in the dental field 

Jeffrey Haines, owner of Brewers Connection in Tempe, Arizona, did not start his brewing life under the best of conditions.

The year was 1999, and Haines bought the homebrew store for "pennies" after it had gone through bad times under a previous ownership. Brewing was in something of a downturn, not just at his new store but also in Tempe as a whole.

"It was getting to the point where when you said the word homebrew, people would turn away," Haines recalled.

Haines had a pretty good idea how he could improve things. He began homebrewing at age 15 using Pabst Blue Ribbon malt and bread yeast ("I donít know how we drank that stuff") but eventually gravitated to more sophisticated ingredients.

He knew the best way to get people to brew again is to help them make great beer. "If they taste their beer and enjoy it, chances are great theyíll brew again. Unfortunately the opposite is also true," he said.

So Haines focused on teaching brewing as well as selling supplies. He places special attention on those who have never brewed before, starting them out on easy recipes and gradually helping them step up to more complex and more interesting ingredients and beers.

He has his new homebrewers bring in their creations, and he isnít shy about telling them what they might have done wrong. He invites customers over to his store for occasional tastings and hosts brewing demonstrations every other Saturday.

He takes other measures as well. When he took over the store there was about $5,000 worth of inventory. Today he stocks $20,000 worth of the highest-quality goods (see sidebar), making it likely that the most discerning homebrewer will be able to find what he or she needs.

The results speak volumes. Revenue has more than doubled in three years.

While he counts himself fortunate today to be running the business, he never would have started if not for a personal tragedy. He spent 18 years in the dental industry as an equipment technician before his company went bankrupt.

Soon, however, he turned tragedy into triumph by buying and building the shop into an example others may well want to emulate.

Brewers Connection is a full service retail store that specializes in the sale of homebrewing equipment, including beer, wine and soda making supplies, kegging equipment and parts, clothing, and glassware. Contact them at Brewers Connection Inc., 1425 E. University Dr., Suite 10, Tempe, AZ 85281, (480) 449-3720, (800) 879-BREW.