For years, friends who wanted a taste of Paul Wheeler’s fine home brews would trek across tide flats and coastal forests to reach his and Jeanne Kitayama’s home in Haines, Alaska – a town of just 2,500 people. In 1999, with the encouragement of their local community – and using dairy tanks from the Midwest as fermenters – the two started Haines Home Brewing Company. For 16 years, they operated an intimate tasting room at Southeast Alaska State Fairgrounds, with a capacity for just 12 people.
Like many small business owners, Wheeler and Kitayama started a business so that they could follow their talent and passion, but the two lacked financial expertise. SCORE mentor Lowell Humphrey helped them think through their financials as they looked to expand their business. He spoke with them by phone every week during the height of their expansion.
Kitayama says “Successful entrepreneurs need to be comfortable taking chances, wisely-chosen chances. Lowell helped give us the confidence to move forward with our business expansion.”
In 2015, Haines Brewing Company expanded to a bigger location on Main Street with capacity for 49 people indoors and more in their outdoor beer garden. The regional demand for Wheeler’s brews has grown to more than the company can supply.