No brewery is an island. Now that we’ve been open for some time we’ve needed some help, and a few stalwart friends have stepped up to the challenge.
These are their stories.
This week: Chris Smith, co owner and COO
Hello, I’m nervous about sharing. Is it going to be ok?
Tell us a little about yourself
I wish I had a cool origin hero like a superhero, but it’s rather not as cool. I was born here, but moved away after realizing there wasn’t a career in Buffalo for a kid with a political science degree. In the ensuing years, lots of cool shit happened. I joined the Air Force, became an intelligence analyst, visited the jungles of Central America, the deserts of Saudi Arabia, as well as the desolate winter tundras of North Dakota. I moved to Louisiana, then Boston, then Chicago, and finally home to Buffalo. During those years, I worked for big companies, small companies, political campaigns, media outlets, and even started my own companies. I started the international cash mob movement and became an unintentional ambassador for small businesses and buying local. I’ve published more content on the Internet as a blogger and podcaster than I’d care to admit. I love my kids, I like french fries, I’m balding gracefully, and more than anything else: I’m trying to show my children how to make a dream a reality. They might not share a dream of owning a brewery or a business, but they will know what it means to work and build something that lasts. That’s a desire all of our owners share, and it’s a big part of our success as a business and as friends.
How did you get involved in the CBW gang?
Ethan and I were co-founders of the Buffalo Old Home Week event in 2007 along with a rag tag group of volunteers. We had both recently moved home and wanted to share our rediscovered love for Buffalo and all of its potential with people here and abroad. Through that event and in the years that followed Ethan and I became very good friends, as did our kids. When he shared this brewery dream with me, it was a natural opportunity to turn our friendship into a partnership. As he assembled this team, I was asked to come on board and be the consigliere, as it were. I help keep the train on the rails, stay organized, wear a suit when one is needed, and cool everyone out when emotions run hot. My business experience and marketing skills would be put to use as we started this business as well as many other skills I didn’t know I had.
What started you down the rabbit hole that is good beer?
While serving in the Air Force, I was sent on a short tour to RAF Fairford in the Cotswolds of England. Not an area rife with “imported” beers from America. Well, I was 22 and wanted to drink, so I discovered English Ales. Newcastle was the first, followed by Old Speckled Hen and Worthington White Shield. I’ve been chasing something new or interesting ever since. Twenty years later, I’m part-owner of a brewery.
Duff’s or Anchor Bar?
Nine-Eleven Tavern. However, if I don’t feel like eating wings in a dimly lit dive bar in South Buffalo, I choose Duff’s.
Anything else we should know about you? Any parting words of wisdom?
Build community. In every thing that you do. If you do that, everything else falls into place.
Chris, welcome home. We went to high school together. Good to see you doing well. The Whale is my favorite beer of all time.