In theory, it shouldn’t have worked. Chip and Summer Lewis had never sold beer before. Or run a restaurant. And the city of Elkhart had recently watched its one brew pub fail and close its doors. But Chip – who owned a manufacturing business – and Summer – a marketing professional – wanted to shift gears and do something they could truly love. And that meant making beer. After years of brewing beer at home, they decided to launch their own brewery.
It wasn’t a completely crazy idea: After all, the craft beer craze was building momentum all across the nation, and the Lewises believed downtown Elkhart was on the cusp of something big. And they had a simple plan: Sell good beer and good food in place where people will want to hang out.“We went with our gut,” Summer says, “but took a calculated approach.”Getting things off the ground was a little rough. Planning and setting up the business took a little longer than expected.
As a result, Chip and Summer had to delay their opening by a month. But when the doors to Iechyd Da Brewing Company flew open in 2011, the crowds poured in. “For the first six months, we struggled to keep up with demand,” Summer says. “We kept saying, ‘We don’t make enough beer!’”But it wasn’t just customers who noticed Iechyd Da. Summer says she and Chip quickly found themselves surrounded by fans and well-wishers. “You become a driver of community spirit when people see a business doing well,” she says. “We had community partners by the boatload.”
By continuing to focus on good beer, good food and a whole lot of fun, the Lewises have managed to sustain their success, prompting one local business person to happily say, “They had no business being that successful.”Which is just another way of saying, in theory, it shouldn’t have worked. But Summer Lewis doesn’t care. “Nothing about this feels wrong,” she says. “Nothing.”
Owners, Iechyd Da Brewing Company
Elkhart County, IN Entrepreneurs
"You become a driver of community spirit when people see a business doing well. We had community partners by the boatload."