Hopping Gnome Brewing Expanding Its Footprint In Wichita
After years of homebrewing beer, Torrey Lattin dreamed of making a living brewing beer full-time. In 2012, Torrey and his wife Stacy Ward Lattin visited Colorado and were impressed by the microbreweries and taprooms there. While Wichita did have two brewery/restaurants back then, the city did not have a beer-focused taproom. An establishment that serves handcrafted beer in a friendly place where people can connect. “A place with a coffee shop vibe, but with beer,” said Stacy.
Instead of Torrey taking his beer making skills to work at a brewery somewhere else, Stacy and Torrey decided to bring the small taproom vibe home to Wichita. In 2014, they worked on a business plan to create a small taproom with a 5-barrel brewing system and distribution plan rather than a restaurant. A new concept that offered a beer-focused atmosphere, where friends can get together and play games, order in a pizza, and hang out.
The couple had several names for the taproom in mind, but most were already taken or were too similar to other established breweries. “One night, Torrey was having a beer at home, and noticed a give-away from the 2012 Kansas City Royals All Star game that was a little gnome. He ran upstairs and said ‘how about Hopping Gnome? You know like hops, and gnomes are known for drinking’,” said Torrey
The name stuck and after finding a local graphic designer to create a memorable logo, the Hopping Gnome Brewing Company was born.
“Neither of us had a background in business, so we worked with organizations like the SBA, NetWork Kansas, and the Kansas SBDC to create a business plan and secure financing,” said Stacy. The couple opened Wichita’s first taproom in May of 2015 located in the Douglas Design District which is just east of downtown.
“It took some time for people to understand our business model. We are not a typical brewpub that serves beer and food, so it took some explaining for our customers to get it,” said Stacy. “We partner with food trucks and neighboring restaurants for food options, which was also a new concept at the time,” Stacy continued. By partnering and collaborating with other small businesses, Stacy and Torrey helped create a strong buy-local movement while the city experienced a resurgence in popularity of the Wichita flag, new wall mural paintings, more locally owned small businesses, and growing community pride.
Hopping Gnome Brewing experienced growth in sales and popularity and in 2018, their Sepia Amber beer received a silver medal award in the American Amber category at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver.
Brewing Through the COVID-19 Crisis
The health mandates that closed restaurants in 2020 due to COVID-19 impacted Hopping Gnome Brewing Company as much as it did for other establishments in Kansas. “We made it through the earlier days of the pandemic with help from SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. The SBA’s COVID-EIDL disaster loan helped us stay open and keep up with increasing expenses,” said Stacy. “Now, we are excited to work with the SBA to obtain a 504-loan to finance our expansion project.”
Torrey and Stacy recently announced they will construct a new taproom behind their current space that will double the size of their indoor taproom and offer a covered patio with an outdoor beer garden. All brewing operations will remain at their current location. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall and the new taproom would open in the summer of 2023.
Stacy is currently a participant in SBA’s T.H.R.I.V.E. Emerging Leaders Wichita cohort where she is developing a strategic growth action plan for Hopping Gnome Brewing Company.
When asked what advice he would give to someone thinking of starting up their own business, Stacy said “Side hustles are great to have when you are starting a business, but I would say if you can go all in and quit your day job sooner rather than later. Being all-in makes it easier to develop and set your business up for success as early as possible. When it comes to growing a business, I always encourage partnerships and collaborations with other small businesses in your community. Sometimes being a small business owner can be lonely and you feel like you are on an island by yourself where you must know all the answers. Partnerships are a great way to build a support system with other businesses, and customers love seeing businesses work together...it is a win-win! I call it relationship-based business,” concluded Stacy.