In this multi-part series, we will try our best to provide a more personal look at the backstory and exciting new changes in store for Broken Goblet, including interviews and deep dives into the many decisions we have made over the last year.
adapt (a-dapt) - verb; make (something) suitable for a new use or purpose; modify; to become adjusted to new conditions
The irony of the entire Mutual Respect origin story is that it really didn't start with any of the principle players. It started with a mid-December court case in 2020. I will spare you the sordid details (we were not party to the case, but were "involved"), but as we sucked down pizza and beer and watched this unfold, we started to realize that we might just have an angle to claim the 2 decaying spots next to us for an expansion. To what end, though? And was it the right move given our challenges to get open? However, let's back up a bit, and do a quick catch-up.
You have to keep this in mind - the current (and long-time) mayor of Bensalem, PA has always wanted State Road to be a place of commerce, of retail, of housing. He/they never wanted a coridor of trucks and industrial buildings. So, when the previous landlord realized that our vision was going to be executed exactly as planned, and the condos across the street began to triple in sales, he knew this was a perfect time to add to our future footprint with an eatery of some sort, and possibly another purveyor of alcoholic beverages. Thus began the saga of Vince's Pizza and Key Spirits.
If we were to write a book, Vince's Pizza and Key Spirits would get at least 2 chapters, there is THAT MUCH backstory and wild happenings. Maybe someday.... but for now, the most important part of this specific slice of the story is that, with the closure of the case, and the transition to the new landlord, these spaces were no longer claimed, and he (the new landlord) would need to find new lessors. And he'd have to get someone to come in and dismantle that beautiful, never touched, never even UNWRAPPED alcohol still. Could that be us? Should that be us?
I recently read one of the most insulting comments ever posted about our business, and although I am pretty sure it was 100% not meant with the malice I believed it carried, I certainly took it as a huge insult. The comment was, paraphrased, "...They opened a music venue and made the brewery part an afterthought." Yes, that's exactly what we did, that $400,000 in equipment back there, that we continuously reinvest in, that we put our HOMES on the line for, that we used to bring 50+ brand new beers out in 2021 alone, yup. Afterthought. For as long as Broken Goblet has existed as an entity, it has been driven by the idea that we had to give people more reasons to revisit than just the beer. Our regular customers visit 2 and sometimes 3x a week, because we give them multiple reasons to visit, even if they are drinking the same beer. Yes, it starts with a quality liquid product, and to that end we invested and reinvested, well, everything, into equipment. But, as the pioneers of the "brewery-as-bar" concept, and with our professional music careers somewhat in the rearview, it made sense to hang our hat on live music. When we opened the new location in July of 2019, we were fairly confident that we would be successful, and that we had indeed selected a decent path through this second phase of business ownership, but the one thing we swore to do was to always accept or entertain the notion of adaptation where needed. It drove the Bristol location, it kept us afloat while we were delayed 18 months opening in Bensalem, and honestly it continues to save our asses as I write this. If you've visited, you might already be wondering what needed to be "adapted to", and the answer came, from all places, the parking lot.
You'd be surprised what you will hear come out of people's mouths when they just leave a business. I think it's the rawest, the most honest, the most candid moment of reflection and review that a consumer can offer. Especially if with others, it's like that moment of just leaving the movie theater (the what? What's a movie theater?) when you assess your first reaction. "I friggin loved that" to "I can't believe I wasted money on that" and everything in between. So, I often find myself lingering in the rear lot of Broken Goblet, maybe trimming some weeds, or casting down salt, or just taking out a bag of trash that I didn't really need to take. And I listen to as much as I can hear, and it turns out that most people, if they have a complaint, are louder. Like they want everyone to hear their opinion, even that guy by the dumpster who they very likely do not know has invested 10 years of his life into this business that they are about to lay verbal waste to. It's ok, I can take it. Many times it's pretty silly, sometimes it is dead on accurate and actionable, and on very few occasions, it's worthy of me actually stopping them to talk. And, on these latter occasions, more than any other topic, the spirit of their comment is this -
"I didn't realize I was coming to a full-blown concert."
This whole line of thought really forced us to an inflection point - when you put now $90,000 into production sound and lights, you are creating a music venue. But, we wanted to make our spot a place for EVERYONE, including those folks who just wanted to stop by, have a beer, maybe be alone in their thoughts, or share some time with someone, peacefully. In our zest to create a premier entertainment facility, we were potentially losing these folks. In addition, we have hated to "close to the public for as ticketed event" which is why we spend over $100,000 EVERY YEAR on payments to bands, and yet don't charge cover fees or door charges and exceedingly rarely have ticketed events. You get to enjoy quality entertainment for free. But, what was the best way to adapt? Could we be better at accommodating everyone, and adapting to what we had access to? You know.... that space on the other side of the wall?
It might sound like a no-brainer, but when the dollar figures we are dealing with start getting thrown out there, and suddenly are growing, you get pretty scared. At least we do. So, yeah - we might be able to negotiate leases on those two spaces, but could we afford it, and how would we utilize it? Simply as overflow? Only for big events? What about the kitchen? And the still? We don't know anything about distilling. How are we going to pay for this fit out?
Jay often says - and I mean often - that things happen to us for very specific reasons. That he always has a hunch that there is a positive force trying very hard to offset the frequent set-backs. It is hard to argue, and so, in January of 2021, a mere 5 weeks post the court case, I find myself in a very wild conversation with Jeremy Myers, hearing about a new idea, hearing about his desire to find a location for a "project", and learning about the players involved. I hung up the phone and dialed Jay, and I recall vividly saying "I have an idea about the pizza place, if that ever happens, if THIS ever happens" and recounted the conversation. We could solve the adaptation riddle for our venue, we could improve guest experience, and we could potentially create something very unique and special. But, what exactly would this venture look like? And what would the space look like? Are we just throwing away more time and money when we could just figure out how to make the existing space work? And before we ever get there.... what is this "co-op" and why would we potentially dilute our brand? Like I said... lots of questions.