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In brewing world, business laws still rule

Yes, being good to customers is important, Joel Rea has learned during his eight years as a homebrew shop owner in Oregon. And knowing as much as possible about beer and brewing also helps.

Joel and his dog.But Rea also learned an important lesson recently – one that business people have discovered time and again since the dawn of commerce.

"It’s all about location, location, location," Rea said.

Rea moved his shop just three blocks, but his new storefront is located in an area with more foot traffic. The store, "Corvallis Brewing Supply," is now located on the leisure side of Corvallis, near department stores, eateries and a movie house, among other attractions.

"There are things for people to do other than just going to a homebrew shop," Rea said.

After the move, business shot up 45 percent, Rea said.

It was a nice turn of events for someone who has devoted most of a decade to the brewing world. Rea, now 36, started the shop for the same reasons that a lot of people get into the business _ it was fun. He first started brewing after getting a starter kit as a birthday present.

He had worked in the past for the Forest Service and was finishing a degree of fine arts in photography. But the thought of working for other people was not inspiring.

So he spent a year looking for a place that would be appropriate for a homebrewing supply store. Some told him not to go to a place with less than one million residents. He eventually settled on Corvallis, a town of about 60,000 that is close to where he grew up.

Despite the city’s modest size, it has many advantages for Rea. It is a college town with a large population of educated young people. The town also has a major Hewlett Packard plant.

In addition, the folks in Corvallis, like in many smaller communities, like to make their own things. "They are not hippies, but they are `close to the ground.’ They are self-sufficient, they like making their own things like jam and beer."

And they like asking questions. Despite the occasional question like "Can homebrew kill you?" (no) and "can I make a Bud light?" (why?), Rea has been peppered with a lot of queries from knowledgeable brewers. In the beginning it was not always easy answering the questions.

"I didn’t know as much as I thought I knew about brewing. And I had to learn a lot more about winemaking and soda making, even including things like cheese and vinegars. There is a lot of learning that I had to do. I had to become much more of an expert than I believed I was," he said.

By concentrating on customer service, his business quickly overtook the other two shops in town that sold brewing supplies. In fact he eventually bought one out.

He thinks others can duplicate his success, although in smaller towns they might have to resort to selling other items besides just homebrewing supplies. And it might help if they learn that all-important business lesson:

Location, location, location.

Corvallis Brewing Supply is located at 464 S.W. Madison Ave, Corvallis, Oregon, 97330. The phone number is (541) 578-1674.