GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids spot for homebrewing supplies is shutting down after 12 years.
O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply on Lyon Street near Union Avenue announced Tuesday it’s set to close.
Owner Ben O’Connor said he’s shutting it down for his family. A manager at the store had looked into buying it from him, O’Connor said, but that didn’t work out.
“It just was pretty obvious to me that I needed to figure something out so I could stay at home with the kids, because my wife works a demanding full-time job,” he said.
He said he’s ready to start a new chapter in his life.
“Sad to go,” O’Connor said. “People are not happy that we’re leaving, but I’m ready to turn the page at this point.”
O’Connor first got into homebrewing in Raleigh, North Carolina, after graduating from Grand Valley State University in 2005. A work friend took him to a homebrew shop on his lunch break, he explained.
Eventually, he moved back to West Michigan with his wife, Allison O’Connor, and they looked into opening a brewery. He said they were nervous about the amount of capital that would take, and when the retail space in their neighborhood became available, they got it for O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply.
“We just said, ‘All right, let’s try it and see what happens,'” he said. “And we were a success right away because the industry was blowing up at that point.”
At the time, in 2011, there weren’t many microbreweries in the area, he said. Founders was already established and Brewery Vivant had just opened.
O’Connor said he was “naïve and young and no idea how to run business.”
But he did have confidence, and they figured it out as they went along.
For their first three years, they hosted anniversary parties to celebrate. O’Connor roasted a pig and brewed beer for the event.
“Everybody came through and hung out and ate food, drank beer,” he recalled.
O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply also hosted annual homebrew contests for eight years, taking a break for COVID-19. The store would accept 100 entries and held a ceremony to announce the winner. O’Connor said he ended up hiring one of the winners.
While homebrewing eventually declined a bit in popularity, O’Connor said the store continued to succeed by diversifying its products. He helped put together draft systems for local small bars and restaurants, and he had items for people with a kegerator in their homes.
About six or seven years ago, nitro cold brew coffee became popular, and he helped Ferris Coffee set up their system, he said. Ferris sent other coffee shops in the area to them.
While homebrewing’s popularity may have declined, O’Connor said there’s still a tight-knit community, and he couldn’t have stayed open without his loyal customer base.
“We just had this big group of people who supported us through the years,” he said, adding that many customers come frequently, some as often as twice a week.
Since the announcement of the store’s closure, many have stopped in to show their support.
“We’ve had all these people from the last 12 years that I’ve seen a lot have come through and gave me a hug or shook my hand or just told me how much of it we’ve done for them through the years and how happy they were to have helped us out,” he said.
The customers have been understanding when O’Connor tells them he’s closing for his family, he said. Since opening, he and his wife have had two kids, and he’s been mostly handling the store without her for the past five years.
O’Connor has already sold a lot of his remaining product, and he’s offering 30% off of everything in the store. O’Connor’s Home Brew Supply will officially close at the end of September or once the product has completely sold out — whichever comes first.
As O’Connor looks back at his time at the store, he said he wouldn’t change it.
“I’m glad that I did it. It’s been stressful through the years, it’s been hard at times, it’s been awesome at times,” he said. “But I’m ready to move on. Just want to start a new chapter in my life.”