Dann Burr calls his experience as a small-business owner stressful. The last year leading up to the opening of his brewery in April hasn’t been a smooth run. The mix of money worries, day-to-day maintenance and occasional structural challenges are just a few things that keep him up at night.
“We’re not really at a point where we can relax yet,” said the 44-year-old Burr of Darien as he sat at a table near the entrance of Scallywag Brewing. His back brushed up against a glass window that offered the perfect view of a busy Cass Avenue in downtown Westmont.
On a warm Thursday evening in August, packs of families, friends and couples weaved in and out of the barricaded street, which was lined with classic muscle cars and local vendors for the annual Cruisin’ Nights and Street Fair.
It’s after 7 p.m. The night is young, but Burr is tired. By this point, he’s been working nearly the entire day, from sunup to sundown. Scallywag Brewing, which is open seven days a week, doubles as a grab-and-go coffee shop in the early morning, catering to commuters on their way to the nearby Westmont train station.
“Breweries tend to be very stable, but you have to get past that hump,” said Burr, taking a swig of his specialty beer from his glass.
That hump could last a couple of months or stretch out over the course of another year, and the only way to jump over that hurdle is to have regular clientele. “And we’re building that,” he said.
On a night like this one, Burr pointed out his clients, some of whom greeted him right as they walked into the corner brewery. Heather Whitlock and Heidi Burk, Burr’s business partners, worked at opposite ends of Scallywag. Whitlock took care of the customers behind the bar, while Burk manned the portable tap by the front door.
“You get some really colorful characters in here,” said Whitlock, 45, of Franklin Park. “I’ve met some really funny people.”
“We’re very much about community,” Burr said.
Scallywag Brewing was built on that people-first mindset, and Burr and his crew are a living example of that core value.
Burr created his Westmont brewery with his girlfriend, Burk, and his close friends, Whitlock and Matt Molitor, beside him. They envisioned Scallywag as a neighborhood hangout, a place for people to have a beer or two, unwind and relax. Beyond that, Scallywag also partners with area eateries, offering a chance to bring foodies, entrepreneurs and restauranteurs together.
“The people that chase microbreweries are great,” Burr said. “They’re wonderful, and I appreciate them coming in. But when it’s 10 below outside, the guy that lives in Lake Zurich is not going to drive down here to have a beer.
“The guy that lives around the corner is going to,” he continued. “Those are the guys.”
As Burr and Whitlock finished off their beers, they bounced ideas with Burk about their next moves. So far, they’ve booked appearances for three upcoming craft beer festivals, including the Oak Park Micro Brew Review on Aug. 17. They’re also looking ahead to participating in more Westmont events such as the Caskets on Cass Race, a Halloween-themed event sponsored by the Westmont Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau.
Burr, Burk and Whitlock laughed as this particular race plays into their brand and love of all things weird and sci-fi.
There were only two hours left before the three closed Scallywag for the day and prepped for another long day ahead. Four months in, Burr, Burk and Whitlock talk about expanding – perhaps to other states – as a pipe dream, but then again, Scallywag started off that way, too. Skies are the limit, but for now and always, it’s important to stay grounded, to find balance and stability.
“You always have to put your community first,” Burr said.
If you go
What: Scallywag Brewing
Where: 41 N. Cass Ave., Westmont
Info: For hours or updates, visit www.scallywagbrewing.com or Scallywag Brewing’s Facebook page.