Charles St. Clair is a stickler. Everything in his business has to be spick and span for the customers—from the floors to the glassware to the bathroom. Especially the bathroom.
As one of the co-founders of a quality-focused craft brewery in Willowbrook, Illinois, he knows that his success depends on customers who want to be part of what he's doing. He talked to us about how it all started, how he met his partners, Kevin Baldus and Alex Stankus, and what it took to get the business off the ground.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Starting it Up
There was a wine bar in the town I lived in. I hate wine, but they had a great beer selection. I'd go after I got off the train from work. Over time, I got to know Diane, who worked there. Whenever a customer came in who was like me—not a wine drinker—she'd ask me to suggest a beer for them. It just became a thing.
Eventually, she said, "You should meet my husband, Kevin. He brews beer."
I met Kevin and we hit it off. We brewed a beer, a Belgian quad. It was phenomenal. So good, so tasty. We still serve it: St. Baldus.
We were trying to open a brewery with another partner who introduced us to Alex. He was a young hotshot brewer, a perfectionist. Good at what he does. So we brought him in. That project didn't pan out, but the three of us kept going.
We just had to find the right building—that was the longest part of the whole process. We went through so many properties. Finally, we got this property here, and it was perfect. It was exactly what we wanted.