Monte Shadwick , an experienced entrepreneur and community leader in Salina, Kansas, is thankful for the SBA loan guarantee that helped make his latest restaurant concept become a reality. Shadwick’s new restaurant downtown, Blue Skye Brewery, was opened on November 20, 2013, and offers a winning combination of craft brewed beer and wood oven pizza.
“Having owned a bar and grill before, I knew that downtown Salina would be a great fit for a beer and pizza restaurant”, said Shadwick. “The wood fire oven and big brew tanks give the restaurant a unique feel. It’s the first of its kind in the area.” he added.
The idea of starting Blue Skye Brewery was an evolutionary process that started a few years ago, when the entrepreneurship class he taught at Kansas Wesleyan University brainstormed on the question: What’s the next thing that Salina needs?
“I knew there was a market in Salina for a craft brew pub. The idea simply grew out of that class project.” said Shadwick. “Craft beer is gaining market share across the country from ‘the big three’ (Budweiser, Miller and Coors), and it’s no different here in Kansas. The popularity for the taste and variety of craft beer is a growing trend.” he added.
In 2012, Shadwick decided to take some time off from teaching to tour the central United States and visit as many brew pubs as he could find. All the brew pub owners he met were willing to share how they grew their business. Almost all of the owners started as home brewers, so they suggested that Shadwick ask around Salina to find the best home brewers he could find and talk to them.
“When I did, I kept hearing about two local firefighters named Josh and John who made great beer at home.” said Shadwick. John Goertzen and Josh Foley, both firefighters at the Salina Fire Department, started a brew club together in 2005. After Shadwick met with Josh and John and pitched the idea of starting a brew pub, they agreed and started making plans together. Josh and John figured they could continue working as firefighters, and work on the brewery idea on their days off work.
Shadwick then focused his attention on finding a wood oven for Blue Skye Restaurant. He found a wood oven pizza restaurant owner in McPherson (Kansas) named Kyle Baxter, who was selling an oven. After meeting Kyle, Shadwick not only bought the oven, he hired Kyle to work for him at Blue Skye.
Throughout the planning process, Shadwick received support from associations and economic development interests like Salina Downtown, Inc., Salina Area Chamber of Commerce, and the North Central Regional Planning Commission (NCRPC). “Deb Peters of the NCRPC helped me fine tune my business plan, and navigate the SBA loan process.” said Shadwick. “The SBA guarantee on the First Bank Kansas loan was critical, without it, I’m not sure I would have been able to launch Blue Skye Brewery.” he added.
Blue Skye Brewery employs eight full timers and eight part timers, and John Goertzen and Josh Foley are still active firefighters who spend their days off taking care of the beer in process at the brewery.
Since opening the doors of Blue Skye Brewery, the restaurant has added to the revitalization of downtown Salina. “The growing popularity of the Stiefel Theatre, and other new establishments have attracted a great mix of people who enjoy what downtown has to offer.” said Shadwick.
“Starting a business takes a lot of research, patience, and a willingness to share ideas with - and learn from others.” said Shadwick. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to the many resources that are available to help you turn your entrepreneurial dream into a reality.” he concluded.