Brew store reinvents
Keeps family business alive
with creative changes
Everyone has probably heard the story about the big
hardware store that comes into a small town and causes the local stores
to lose business.
is what happened in a way to Brett and Eric Kuhnhenn, two brothers who
own a hardware store in Warren, Mich., called Lutz Hardware. A Lowes
warehouse recently opened up just a half-mile from their store, which
their dad bought some 35 years ago.
Their problems were compounded by the fact that there
were three Home Depots within a short driving distance.
Like a lot of stores that have faced a similar
dilemma, the Lutz owners decided they just couldn’t compete against
the big stores. But instead of closing for good, the brothers are
transforming their hardware store into a seven-barrel microbrewery and
It may sound like an odd transition, but the Kuhnhenn
brothers have been in the beer business for some time. As well as being
active homebrewers, they have sold homebrewing supplies out of the back
of their hardware store for many years. (They were one of the original
White Labs clients).
Brett Kuhnhenn, 28, says there is a long tradition of
selling brewing supplies out of hardware stores. But he began selling
the product not to revive an ancient tradition but out of necessity. He
and his brother started selling the supplies after encountering the
frustration of not being able to buy products locally. "We thought,
why do we have to drive to buy supplies? Why don't we just sell them
ourselves," Kuhnhenn recalled.
The transition is a special one for Brett because of
his appreciation for the art of brewing. He promises to make one of the
better German-style Hefeweizens as well as other lagers and ales.
The brothers plan on bottling their beers in 12- and
22-once bottles as well as offering kegs. The brew-on-premise aspect of
the business, meanwhile, will become one of only a handful in their home
"We're going to give it our best effort and see
if it works," Brett said. The brewery/BOP will be called Kuhnhenn
Lutz Hardware is located 5919 Chicago Rd., Warren, MI 48092; (810)
264-2351. The company also has a Web page and online catalogue at