The Phoenix Brewing Company is far more than a local pub. It’s a cornerstone of the Mansfield community even in these uncertain times. Nestled inside the once-abandoned Charles Schroer Mortuary building, the aptly named Phoenix Brewing Company has brought new life to downtown Mansfield, Ohio. Launched in 2014, it features independent, hand-crafted, small-batch beers brewed on-site. Phoenix was created by local brewing hobbyists that wanted to bring craft beer back to the area, so they’ve partnered with local restaurants to create custom brews. This has resulted in people from around Ohio and beyond traveling to Mansfield to offer their patronage. Local musicians often perform for Phoenix audiences, and guest beers, wines, and spirits from around the state are featured.
Support from industry leaders makes uncertain times less scary
Carmone Macfarlane, Co-Owner and Marketing/Creative Director of Phoenix, appreciates the work of the national-scale Brewers Association, and the state-scale Ohio Craft Brewers Association. Both have worked tirelessly to help craft breweries during the COVID-19 pandemic. By acting as a liaison between breweries and the government at both state and federal levels, the associations have become a font of resources and advocacy. Before shelter-in-place orders, the associations, along with the Ohio Restaurant Advisory Board, started offering support. Their guidelines, legal support, local health department contacts, and more helped Phoenix & other small breweries prepare for shutdowns.
“Before (social distancing) started, we began putting precautions in place for COVID,” explained Macfarlane. “We switched to only plastic mugs the week before St. Patrick’s Day to keep customers and staff safe, and had a lot of guidance from the Ohio Craft Brewers Association and the (national) Brewers Association.” Like many other businesses, Phoenix had to close their doors to the public due to the pandemic, and have had to pivot their business to accommodate this new reality. “Ohio wants small businesses to be successful … they changed the liquor laws and practices so we could keep flourishing.”
The power of reimagining your business model
Throughout quarantine, Phoenix has offered curbside pickup and home delivery of their brews. While technically able to ship in Ohio, it’s quite costly. Thus home deliveries are the most popular choice for those who don’t live in Mansfield. Different communities have different delivery days during the week. Communities outside Richland County, such as Cleveland and Columbus, have special deliveries as needed. “A lot of people were excited about the deliveries, but we still have to check IDs. Some people get upset, but we have to make sure it’s not someone’s kid that ordered beer,” Macfarlane laughed. Delivery services will probably continue for a while after businesses begin to reopen until people are more comfortable with going out again.
Phoenix has also moved other operations & events online. Phoenix moved their team-building and socialization events online by implementing virtual happy hours. They also hosted their first-ever Beer School (an occasional event where people can learn about craft brewing) online recently. Their anniversary celebration every April typically offers 30 taps of various brews. This year the event had to be adapted and moved to a to-go celebration with 14 taps.
During the Easter holiday, Phoenix sold “Grown-Up Easter Baskets” patrons could customize with various goodies such as glasses, t-shirts, beers, coasters, and candy. Many people who had never set foot in the building before COVID-19 ordered baskets and brews to show their support for the business. Upon discussing the Easter baskets, Macfarlane grew quiet. “Sorry,” she said, “I tend to get emotional when I think about all the support we’ve gotten.” She cleared her throat and continued. “People that haven’t even stepped foot in here have been ordering just to show their support! It’s so amazing.” Continuing with their custom of giving back to the community, they donated a lot of their profits from the baskets to the Richland County Foundation Community Fund for furloughed and essential workers.
Staying the course
They’re still brewing fresh batches while cutting back production until bars and restaurants can fully open again. Macfarlane explained that the flavor profile of the beers offered at Phoenix is what people enjoy the most, and maintaining that is an important priority. Brewing more than is needed would affect the product quality. They deeply discounted several batches already to be sure they don’t go to waste, and will probably continue to do so for a few more batches.
Most people wouldn’t think a brewery would be able to thrive online in uncertain times like these. Yet, just like its namesake, The Phoenix Brewing Company rose above the challenges to successfully continue providing comfort, charity, and cheer during an uncertain time. This pandemic has been a test in resilience for everyone, and businesses like Phoenix burn brightly to inspire us all.