The Perfect Pairing: BierWax's Unique Approach to Standing Out in a Competitive Industry
Are there any greater pleasures in life than drinking a good beer with friends and listening to some great music? BierWax is a Brooklyn-based craft brewery that combines analog music (that is, music spun on actual vinyl records) and craft beer. We spoke to Chris Maestro, called “The Nicest Person in Craft Beer” by VinePair about the inspiration for BierWax and how the business has managed to use creativity to grow and thrive in a competitive market.
Blending two unique passions into a thriving business
Chris loved listening to music from a young age and started collecting vinyl records in his late teens. However, his interest in craft beer came a bit later. He started out as a teacher in New York City public schools, then after a trip to Hong Kong when he tried his first craft beer he unlocked another passion.
“Upon my return to New York, I was on a mission to find flavorful beer, which at the time was pretty challenging,” says Chris. It was 2005, after all; just before the boom in craft beer that was soon to shake the country. “My love affair with craft beer ran alongside my continued obsession with collecting vinyl, DJing and making beats,” says Chris. “Another overseas trip proved to be life-changing. In Amsterdam, I visited a bar that was known as the local hip hop bar. The ambiance was fantastic and there was a live DJ spinning actual vinyl records. At the time, most DJs had already switched over to digital DJing. An early seed was planted.”
It took another five years of planning, but in 2018 Bier Wax was opened and Chris’s dream of having his two passions under one roof was realized.
Mastering the flow of small business owner communication
One of the things that Chris learned in his experience as a small business owner is that you are constantly “on.” “The way we communicate now has changed drastically from even ten years ago. I wasn’t prepared for the amount of times my phone buzzes, chimes or rings a few times a minute,” he says.
Chris’s phone is constantly buzzing with texts, DMs, emails which can be a distraction from the work at hand. “I also had to learn that, as a business owner, you are never really ‘off,’” he says. “I try not to put my phone on “Do Not Disturb” because a staff member may need something if I’m not at the bar. It has been challenging to unplug.”
Another way that communication has come into play for Chris has come when it comes to marketing his unique business. New York City has tons of bar and craft breweries, which can make it difficult to stand out.
“Luckily, we are unique on a few levels,” says Chris. “We were one of the first vinyl record listening bars in the entire country and the theme allows us to stand apart in the craft beer bar scene in NYC. We not only serve amazing beer, but you can count on us for playing some incredible analog music, as well. We are also one of the few craft beer bars owned and operated by people of color who were born and raised in NYC.”
Those are a lot of unique attributes that BierWax proudly proclaims.
Navigating challenging times in a post-Covid world
BierWax was just a few years old when the pandemic changed the world, but they’ve been able to make it through and thrive.
“COVID-19 was the biggest challenge we all didn’t see coming. The pandemic nearly forced us to close. Even with PPP 1, PPP2, EIDL, plus various grants, we were still on the verge of closing,” says Chris.
One thing that improved things was when their street was approved for “Open Streets,” an initiative that shut down the street and made it a vibrant walkable neighborhood for the entire weekend. (Amazing what pedestrian-friendly programs can do for small businesses!).
“We were able to survive by trying our best to hold on, by pivoting to other business models based on the mandates at that time-period, and by working our butts off. It hasn’t been easy,” says Chris.
BierWax is still feeling the effects of the pandemic, even after its end.
“Post-COVID, margins are down across the industry. It is tougher to turn a profit. A quick piece of advice is to make sure to have a hefty bit of cash on reserve while you navigate the unsteady waters of running a craft beer bar, brewery or restaurant that is craft beer forward.”
Now, with other pressures such as rising inflation and economic uncertainty, BierWax is being creative with how they’re managing.
“We continue to have some very tough quarters and it seems like the economic climate is taking a toll on bars and restaurants, in general. We are focusing on more private events and full bar buy-outs, which always generate great sales. We’ve also taken a few steps to cut costs, but there really isn’t much that can be reduced in terms of our operating costs. We are continuing to hold on and hope for the best!”
Continuing to grow and play an optimistic tune
Despite the challenges of the past three years, BierWax is growing and continuing to spin records and pour beers. They recently opened a second location in Queens. “ It has been a blessing to bring the BierWax vibe and model to a new space and neighborhood,” says Chris. “We always dream about other versions of BierWax around the country, but we have our hands full for now. We shall see what the future holds…”
You have a unique vibe - find your hive with Honeycomb
We love learning from local business owners like Chris about how they’ve been able to turn their passions into businesses that are profitable and bring joy to their neighborhoods. While BierWax is one of a kind, there are so many small businesses like them that are out there learning the same lessons and growing. Maybe you’re one of them!
Honeycomb Credit provides a platform for growing local businesses to borrow money from everyday investors. By launching an offering on Honeycomb, business owners can share their future financial success with customers, fans, and their community, while getting the funds they need to keep growing. Learn more by filling out the form below.