Buchanan brewery celebrates grand opening in midst of pandemic

NOW: Buchanan brewery celebrates grand opening in midst of pandemic

BUCHANAN, Mich. -- For some, the idea of starting a business in the middle of a pandemic may seem too daunting of a task.

But — a brewery in Buchanan has done just that.

River Saint Joe’s founders have been working on this since 2014. Less than a week before they were scheduled to open in March, the state was shut down due to the coronavirus.

“We had been hiring and planning to open for years and months and then we were set to open March 22nd, and five days before that we got word that the stay-at-home order was placed,” said Brian Dougherty, co-founder of River Saint Joe.

A pandemic — something no new business owner expects will prevent them from opening.

River Saint Joe was always meant to be a dine-in experience, so they had to pivot to carry-out to get some revenue going.

“We were actually surprised and thankful that the community directly around us really made an effort, with a ton of repeat customers coming just to support us during that hard time,” said Dougherty.

Dougherty, along with sisters Fran and Ann Tuitt, first noticed the farmland in 2014 and say between zoning and land use changes it’s taken six years for their idea to become a reality.

But, you’ll see one thing on River Saint Joe’s property that you don’t at most breweries.

“The thought process was the way wineries are on vineyards, we wanted to have a brewery on a hop farm,” said Lisa Shanahan, head of house at River Saint Joe.

A five and a half acre hopyard — so they’re literally making their beer from scratch.

As they look ahead to their official start to business, the founders thank the community for helping them make it through.

“Now more than ever this is the perfect place to come, in a pretty safe way, to sit out and have a good time,” said Dougherty.

Not only does River Saint Joe have the hopyard, they also have gardens where they harvesting their own produce for the restaurant.

“We are very farm inspired,” said Shanahan. “Obviously given the setting and Chef Carly also has a real emphasis on sustainability and not wasting, so we try and reuse and repurpose as many ingredients as we can.”

They will be following Michigan’s re-opening guidelines, that means operating at 50% capacity inside and having employees wear masks.

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