About a year ago, Matthew Winhold looked at his friend of 20 years, Jon Gibson, and said he wanted to run a bar. At the time, Gibson was working 16-hour shifts at a factory and said, "It's not gonna happen."
But two weeks later, Winhold had found the perfect place to run a bar with Gibson: Richmond Beer House.
"He sat down with me one day, and he was like, 'Look man, do you trust me?' and I was like, 'Yeah.' He was like, 'Well, let's do this'," Gibson explained. "Here we are a year later."
Winhold said he wanted to be a co-owner of the business for a multitude of reasons.
"My whole life, I've wanted to do things, I guess my grandparents instilled the thing of doing things for others. This allows me to basically bring people along in my life and help better their lives." Winhold said. "One of the ways that can be done is by bringing a friend along and say, 'Hey man, quit busting yourself for someone else, and let's make something for us.' …
"I want anything that I'm a part of to be something that everyone can benefit or grow from. I feel like what greater thing can you do in life than to maybe take a risk and it change something for me and everyone around me, or maybe people that aren't directly connected to me?"
So on April 1 last year, Winhold, Gibson and two others took over the Richmond Beer House, buying the name and everything from the people who started Dreaming Creek Brewery downtown.
However, the other two investors at the beginning had busy lives, and they couldn't dedicate the time necessary to the bar, so Winhold and Gibson gave them their initial investment back and continued to pursue their dreams.
At the beginning, the two had a shoestring budget, Winhold explained.
"Basically, we put in what little money we had to actually just get in the place. So we didn't have anything to make anything cosmetically better," he said.
That meant that the two spent 10 hours painting one day to change the place. They rewired things themselves.
"I mean, everything that got done in here, we did with our two hands," Gibson said. "And that part makes you really proud."
Back then, the two didn't really know how to run a bar, either. As Gibson said, "There's no handbook for bars for dummies."
"We went from not knowing how to price things, not knowing about taxes, not knowing about doing research. Before we were like, that beer looks good, we'd order it, and it'd flop," Gibson continued. "Now we got into looking at our demographic, our surrounding people, what they typically drink and other bars and stuff, what are they serving, what's best serving in this place and also, we learned to stay on top of the curve as far as when a brewery drops a brand new beer, we break our necks to be the first one to have it on tap."
Now, Winhold said, the bar is more refined, and they're more refined as owners, as well.
"We literally went from crawling to now, we're able to stumble to walk a little," Gibson said. "We're not full walkers just yet."
"We're only 1 year old, what do you want?" he joked.
But ever since the beginning, the two knew what they wanted to do with the place. They wanted to keep it about craft beer and also wanted to use the space to highlight local artists and breweries.
"Every bar everywhere has got shots of liquor, and typically, you go into other bars, and after a certain point in the night, people (become) a little more unchill," Gibson said. "We just wanted that homey atmosphere, and every craft bar you go to, you've got that atmosphere. They're not coming in to get drunk. They're coming in to drink good beer and relieve themselves of their day to day struggle and their stress."
And the business came with a stage, so the two decided to use the most of it, host local artists and chase a goal of building a better community.
"For us serving local, you get local artists, you just get that fresher product, and then you get a community that is connected to that person or that beer. They've maybe experienced it somewhere locally with a bunch of people, and they can come back here and do that again," Winhold said. "That's basically who we are, and we try to be connected with people. I feel like that craft scene and that local scene, it made sense to us."
That means that at the Richmond Beer House, events are happening every week. Wednesday, it's trivia night starting at 7 p.m. Thursdays is open mic night, when Gibson and Winhold invite anyone to take to the stage and do whatever they want: poetry, singing, playing instruments, painting, comedy, it doesn't matter, and it doesn't have to be original, Gibson said.
And on most Fridays and Saturdays, the beerhouse hosts live music, which Electric Berea is connected to, Gibson said.
"They come in and do interviews and stuff like that," he explained. Then, those interviews go onto the organization's podcast.
Winhold and Gibson even paid for three separate licenses so that they could have live music at their business, so that artists can play cover songs as well as originals.
"Even then, we have artists ask us when they come in, 'Do I need to play covers? Do I need to play originals?' And we've told everyone from the very beginning, we want originals. We want to hear you. We want to grow the community basically," Winhold said. "It has no choice but to grow. … I'm looking forward to the next few years and seeing what happens down here. My big hope is there is a big emphasis on the arts and music."
Winhold added that since the Richmond Beer House is a smaller venue, it allows him and Gibson to better connect with their customers. He said he's learned about everyone's name who walks in.
He said his favorite part about working at the bar is getting to know the customers, whom Gibson said they don't even refer to as patrons.
"We call them family," Gibson said.
"We've got customers that when they walk in, I've already got their beer poured, because I know what they get every time. As soon as they sit down, I set the beer down. They're like, 'This is why I come back here'," he explained.
Gibson said most of their family, especially new people who come in, are amazed to learn Gibson and Winhold are the owners.
"We're sitting there, we're talking to them, we're joking, we're cutting up, and they're like, 'Well how long have you guys been bartenders?'" Gibson said. "And we're like, 'Oh no, we own the place.' They're like, 'Get out of here. You guys don't even act like owners'."
Most nights, Winhold will even go out and sit with customers as Gibson stays behind the bar.
And one of the things their customers have been asking for is food, so about a month and a half ago, Gibson and Winhold added food to the business's offerings, which happened almost by accident.
"So we had a late night one night," Gibson said. "This dude (Winhold) made a burger that he called the garbage burger, and it was just a hodge podge of black bean and other stuff, and the burger turned out amazing. I was like, 'Dude, we got to put this at the bar somehow'."
The two continued to weigh options and just decided to do it. The food options started out as a brat and a burger, and originally, they wanted it to be more about the brat.
"But we made the burger, the Beerhouse Burger, cream cheese, jalepeno stuffed burger with jam and pico on a (toasted) bun, and people went crazy for it. … After that, it was a no-brainer," Gibson said.
The part that makes him scratch his head, though, is that Winhold, who created the burger, is vegan. But because he's vegan, that means the bar also has a vegan brat customers can enjoy.
Additionally, all the food served at the business is made in air-fryers or in an oven, so it doesn't come out greasy. And Gibson and Winhold are constantly working on new ideas to possibly add to the menu.
Food or otherwise, the two aren't hesitant when it comes to trying new things, which is the exact reason they've been able to realize the one-year anniversary of the bar.
"If you believe in something, it will sell," Gibson said. "If you give 110 percent, and you come in, and you put your heart into something every single day, it has no other choice but to do good."
"If we fail, we fail," he said. "But really, the only way you're going to fail is if you give up, and we don't have that in us. We're too stubborn. …
"You've got to take some risks into consideration. You need to know what could happen. But once you actually confront those fears, risks, they're really not so scary anymore. Therefore, it's OK."
As Gibson put it, "If you don't fall down, how do you know what getting up feels like?"
And even if Gibson and Winhold fall down, they more or less look at it as a learning experience.
"You're going to do things that maybe aren't the best, but you have to just get back up and keep going," Winhold said. "That's where we're looking to find our success, is just in that trench. Digging for gold through a trench."
Gibson said so far, it's paid off for them.
"It's kind of magical … ," he said. "We're just like anyone else, I guess, trying to make our own way, our own path in life. And along the way, if we can help the people who live around us and our community, that's just an added bonus."