‘Business roommates’ can be the way for small businesses

SAN DIEGO — The unique masks hanging in Voodoo Child Brewing Company are some of Jake Deardorff’s favorite things about his tasting room.

“The Voodoo culture is comprised of a lot of different cultures and different superstitions,” Deardorff said. “They’re from all over the world: New Zealand, Africa, Mexico.”


What You Need To Know

  • Many small business owners are adopting a “roommate” model
  • “Business roommates” are completely different businesses who share the same space
  • The businesses split bills, bring in customers for each other and collaborate
  • Many small businesses believe this is a great way forward with inflation and rising cost of living

He has collected masks for years and is excited to finally display them all in his first tasting room.

Deardorff started Voodoo Child with his friends James McCanna and Justin Buckingham at the home-brew level, the name inspired partly by Jimi Hendrix and other classic rock.

They had been looking at opening their own brewery for years, but rising rents, inflation and the cost of living proved challenging. When the opportunity came up to take over some room in an already established brewery, they jumped at the chance.

“We would still be searching for a place to set up, like the brick and mortar,” Deardorff said. “It kind of was just really strange like perfect timing.”

They now share a tasting room with Savagewood Brewing Company, owned by Darrel Brown.

“We love collaborating with [Brown]he’s a good solid beer-maker and dude and I feel like we are too,” Deardorff laughed.

McCanna said moving in with Savagewood quickly elevated them from the home-brew level to a larger, more efficient business model.

“At home I would have to babysit a lot of the beer for a long period of time and make sure the temperatures were good and things weren’t going haywire,” he said. “Now we have a big digital system in the back so these are kind of just set it and forget it and let it do its thing for three weeks, which makes it a lot easier. You don’t have to worry about it as much and it makes a better product.”

Billy Beltz is their nearby neighbor and the owner of Lost Cause Meadery.

“We like to experiment a lot with styles, ingredients, processes and really make a full range of mead, because mead can be so versatile,” Beltz said.

Lost Cause was one of the first in San Diego to adopt a “business roommates” model. He shares a space with Rollin Roots, a kitchen and Serpentine Cider, a hard cider company.

“Instead of just having a meadery and trying to get people in, or just a cider, we had this really cool space with a kitchen and you could get mead and cider and so it was kind of a destination,” Beltz said. “Just a totally unique drinking experience.”

Splitting the cost of operation helped them all survive the pandemic. Despite COVID-19, Beltz opened a second tasting room. Serpentine Cider also opened a second tasting room, and Rollin Roots is expanding.

“Probably over the last month I’ve had two or three business owners ask us about it,” Beltz said. “You know, ‘how can we do this on our own?’ thing. And it’s a great model and there’s so many different ways you can do it too.”

All the craft beverage makers agree that splitting the cost of operation is just the tip of the iceberg. Additional benefits include brainstorming, collaboration and bringing in customers that benefit everyone. Just like regular roommates, they all agree it is important to collaborate with someone you share values ​​with and who you like.

“Besides sharing costs, it’s also kind of like sharing the possibility of generating revenue as well,” McCanna said. “Beer kind of brings the world together a little bit.”

“It’s not a conventional system by any means, but I would say it’s a little bit easier,” Deardorff said. “Don’t be scared to do it. Sometimes weird things are great.”

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