If you had asked me five years ago if I would start a food company in Cleveland, I would have thought you were joking. I was working as the communications coordinator for the local MLS and had a nice 9-5 desk job. In my spare time I worked in freelance graphics and web design to help pay the bills. Life was pretty average. We did the same thing everyone else was doing, including the food we ate. That was until we started watching documentaries like “Forks Over Knives”, “Fed Up”, and “Food Inc.”. We knew we needed to change our eating habits and get active. I started running and quickly fell in love; I was hooked on the runner’s high and the mental clarity a run can provide. I was training for a half marathon and ended my run near a health food store. When I went in, I had no idea I was about to find my passion in the cooler section. I stumbled across a bottle of GT’s Kombucha and thought, “Man, that looks weird.” So of course I grabbed it. I absolutely loved it from the first sip, and so did my wife and five kids at the time.
I started doing some research and quickly found you could brew this magical elixir at home. I ordered my SCOBY and had it within three days. I was so excited when the mail came. I was finally able to see the SCOBY in all of its gelatinous glory. I put the SCOBY on the shelf fully intending to start my brew, but there it sat for three months. When I finally worked up the courage to start my first batch, I felt like a mad scientist in my lab who was very proud of my new concoction. If I am being honest, the first brew was amazing… but only to me. When I look back on it now, the brew was far too sour and the flavor profile was just not there. Our friends stopped wanting to come over because every time they did they were presented with what I thought was the best thing ever. However, in reality, it was not far from vinegar in a cup.
With the help of time and a lot of experimenting, things started to shift. People started wanting to buy what we were brewing at home. I wanted to have fun with this new thing and decided if we were going to sell it to our friends, then we needed a name and a label. I took my graphics background and my wife, Daniell’s creativity to create a logo. Unbeknownst to us, this logo would be the face of our company. When we woke up the next day and started critiquing our work from the night before, we realized that what we created was great and no one else in Cleveland was doing it. It didn’t take much forethought to know we needed to strike and bring this product to the market. That was in December of 2013, and by April of 2014 we had formed the company, designed the label, and made hundreds of sample bottles.
The last part of the puzzle was the commercial kitchen to brew the ‘buch legally. We entered Cleveland Culinary Launch and Kitchen, and shared incubator and kitchen space right in downtown Cleveland. We now had all the pieces to the puzzle. After hitting the streets with samples, we had orders before we even brewed our first batch. After three months in business we got our first big break: Heinen’s was interested in carrying the ‘buch in all 18 stores in Northeast Ohio.
Clevelanders are amazing people and they have supported us from the beginning. Our loyal fan base helped us grow and you can now find Bearded Buch in over 120 locations including: Whole Foods, Buehler’s, and Giant Eagle Market District. We have purchased a 5,000 square foot building in Old Brooklyn that serves as our headquarters and production facility. We love Cleveland and could not have started a company in a better city.
We look forward to the future and want to sincerely thank all of the people that helped us get to where we are today!