Sometimes our ideas go according to plan. Sometimes they don’t. Sometimes, when they don’t, better ideas emerge.
Last year, I somehow turned from 25 years of age to 40. I woke up and became a 40 year old man. I remember waking up that morning and realizing that this decade will be my best chance at making a difference in the community. This was to become my “important decade”. I was in the middle of the STATION business plan and the goal was to create something that complemented the eMbers VENUE; something that looked really good for guests coming into the downtown district, something that the community could come to and look at with pride, and something that kept food on the table for my kids.
Downtown Rensselaer is very special to me. Not because of what it is, but what it can be. I like to visit special places and feel inspired. Milwaukee, Chicago, Tulsa, Valparaiso, Amsterdam, L.A.; these are all places that inspire me in different ways. Big or small, any community can have something that feels special. The size of a community doesn’t matter, small communities like Rensselaer can inspire as well. In many regards, much easier. The goal with the STATION was simple, create a space that is more special than anywhere I’ve ever been in the world. I know it sounds like a statement from a ten year old child but that’s how I work. I was pretty excited to start this “important decade” of my life.
One of the first things I did for my “important decade” was email the two mayoral candidates and explain how downtown Rensselaer is special to me. I asked a series of questions about their plans and visions for downtown, if elected. One said he’d get back to me and the other said his attorney advised him not to answer the questions; not a great start of communication confidence in this “important decade”.
Saint Joseph’s College announced that they will cease to exist at the end of the school year. This becomes a huge hurt in the community losing not only 17% of a prospective population of clientele, but also losing a big chunk of our culture and identity. This is a major setback in this “important decade” in terms of city stability.
Add the difficulties and budget of indoor/outdoor construction, trying to roof the STATION 3 different times, breaking 5 ribs and bruising half of my organs, and nonsense in the brewery side of things (I’ll get to that in a bit); This important decade is off to a less than desirable start.
We are not, however, the type of people that dwell on the negatives or difficulties. For every problem, there are several solutions. Part of the fun in business is how solutions are created from these problems.
What is important in the end is creating something to the best of our abilities. In that, I am extremely excited for what we’ve created for you. There is still much to do but everything is coming together and the finished product is still slated to be complete by early summer.
Our approach in the finished products is similar to our style of creating the environment; we want to incorporate creativity and uniqueness in our product. There is no sense in reinventing the wheel and quite frankly, deep fryers and burgers bore us.
FOOD: We are absolutely in love with the brick oven. Everyone associates brick ovens with pizzas and we will, of course, have that element. More importantly though will be the menu items that will use the oven outside the pizza box. The brick oven wasn’t part of the original business plan but with fortunate circumstances, brainstorming, and a persistent mason, we created a fun and unique way to prepare food. Food will start more simple until we gain more confidence and a good workflow on this side of the business.
COCKTAILS: Wow. When we opened eMbers four years ago, so much attention had to be placed on finishing construction that we didn’t really learn as much as we needed to manage a bar. Now, it is definitely one of our strengths due to all the education and experimenting we proceeded to work hard for. Craft is the key word with this regard and although we will have the familiar brands that are comfortable to the majority, we want to focus on local and unusual spirits that will cater to our friends that are more like us. We love to mix with quality ingredients and and the cocktails at the STATION will show that.
BEER: Making beer in-house was the driving point in starting this expansion. We led with the microbrewery component of the business. We thought we had the right plan/people in place, turns out, we didn’t. I can’t exactly say what happened in this regard because I don’t entirely know myself. What I do know is too much time and energy was spent in that direction so we are looking forward to new ideas beginning now. We will not open with the microbrewery component in place. Instead, we are going to recreate how we are going to incorporate this dynamic to the STATION and do it in a more careful, articulate fashion that will benefit all of us in the long run. I’m sure this is as disappointing for you as it is for us but I promise, the new plan for this will be stronger, better, and more exciting. We are looking at this as a marathon, not a sprint.
In the meantime, we will offer beers at the STATION that will represent what we represent. Unique and local brews with rotating brewery will be showcased as we progress to ultimately making our own. We will have a beer or two that can be found on a NASCAR hood as well for the less adventurous. We’ll get them to come around as well :)
ENVIRONMENT: This is the part that excites me the most. I really believe that this is our best work yet. If everyone in Rensselaer had a Ryan Preston on their team, we would be a tourist destination with building design leading the way. Every part of this space has creative interest and if you look for it, with each visit, you will discover something new and cool about the space. The outdoor space will be exciting and unique to our guests. We are also leaving it slightly open ended to evolve a bit more as we grow.
Truth be told, this entire project has been a roller coaster ride. We’ve given it our all and I’m certain you’ll love the vision we have for this space. Although the creation took a lot out of us, we will cross the finish line of completion with excitement in sharing our passion of creating the STATION for you. With your support, it will be an ever evolving component to downtown Rensselaer and a space you can share with your family and friends and we support the growth of our community.