By G. David Doran
For years, beer-loving Omaha, Nebraska, restaurateur Brian Magee had wanted to turn the vintage 1903 fire station in the downtown Old Market Historic District into a brewpub, but a lack of investment capital and practical knowledge kept his dream on ice.
Enter John Hickenlooper, inner-city developer and founding partner of Denver's Wynkoop Brewing Co. Hickenlooper had helped open six other brewpubs around the country, capitalizing on his successful reputation at Wynkoop for getting local investors to put up capital, bringing in expert brewmasters and chefs to train the staffs, and giving joint operators like Magee the opportunity to earn equity interest in the business as an incentive.
With Hickenlooper's help, the historic building was eventually transformed into the Upstream Brewing Co., which helped spur an economic rejuvenation in downtown Omaha. "Being associated with Hickenlooper and Wynkoop made it much easier to find local investors," says Magee. "They were also instrumental in helping us get the brewery up and running smoothly."
Hickenlooper's formula seems to be working. Sales at Wynkoop and its partner brewpubs this year will exceed $1 million, and plans are in the works for a total of 20 brewpubs to be built before 2000.
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