SPOONER -- We recently had a chance to sit down with Spencer Churchill for a chat at our favorite coffeehouse, the Dock Coffee,
What kind of coffee are you drinking today?
Today I’m drinking the Minnesota Mudd. I usually add a little cinnamon and some MCT oil to my coffee. Makes it extra tasty as well as giving it a healthy kick that helps me rationalize perfecting my craft with a couple IPA’s after work.
You're the son of Jeff & Sue Churchill, owners of The Dock Coffee, and you also work here, so you drink a lot of coffee while working? Which is your favorite coffee drink here?
I do drink a lot of coffee, maybe a little more than one should. I started as a fan of our lighter roasts, but the more I’ve been around the coffee industry the more I’ve moved towards the darker roasts. We recently started working with UP Coffee Roasters out of Minneapolis and I’ve really grown to love their Minnesota Mudd. And on day’s that I’m moving especially slow, you might catch me sipping on a Red Eye.
Can you tell us a little bit about your background?
Absolutely. My family and I grew up in Stewartville, Minnesota, right outside of Rochester. I graduated high school there in 2011 in a class of around 140 other students. After high school, I went on to get my bachelors in Political Science and a bachelors in Legal Studies from Winona State University. I learned a lot during my time in Winona, and aside from my academics, I also learned how to enjoy one or two nice malt beverages along the way. I’ve spent most of my young adult life tending bar and serving tables so I’m hardly a stranger to the restaurant industry! With that experience, my passion for food service has really blossomed.
I've heard you might have a new gig soon?
You’ve heard correctly! As you, and probably many of your readers know, my family and I are very eager to share our dream of opening a brewpub here in beautiful Spooner, Wisconsin. We’re working very diligently to manifest this dream into a creation that all can enjoy right along with us.
As General Manager, what will your responsibilities be?
I think we both have that question, Ben haha! But in all seriousness, I’ll be overseeing the operation of the entire business, but of course, I won’t be alone. We are building an incredible team to help work through everything. It really will be a team-based project where we will all rely on the hard work of the man or woman next to us. As far as my specific responsibilities, I’ll primarily oversee the “front of the house” operations, here I’ll manage staff and work with customers to create and promote the best environment and product possible. But everything from washing dishes and mopping floors to brewing to serving tables will be included in my daily efforts.
What are your responsibilities now in preparation for the opening?
Planning, planning, planning. There is no shortage of meetings and drafts and conversations when working on a project of this scale. Financials, menu, décor, equipment, layout, permits, licenses, state-approved plans, ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations and requirements, and much more. However, I have to say I don’t particularly mind the heavy amount of market research that’s required; testing the products of other successful members of the industry is always a fun time.
When will this be opening?
Our open date is fairly flexible at the moment. It all depends on what hiccups we run into along the way, and while the road looks pretty clear now; we definitely want to be ready to tackle any possible complications. But as of now, we’re all confident saying Fall of 2018.
I've heard this is going to be a Brewpub, and I've heard it is going to be a Brewhouse. Which is it and what's the difference?
Sure. I understand how this gets a little confusing, as we also get a little confused by it. A brewpub is a business that brews beer and sells it on the premises, generally along with food and liquor. A brewhouse is an actual area on site where the beer is brewed, the specific room per se. So all brewpubs have a brewhouse. This is all to my understanding, so there’s a decent chance someone might read this and be loudly thinking how wrong I am. Quite sorry to said reader.
I've heard, and correct me if I'm wrong, that you and your family were originally in discussion to rent from the people that bought the old civic center to put the Brew-Pub in the old Jersey's location. I've even heard that it was close to a done deal. Is any of that true? If so, what happened there?
Over the past year, our family had been looking for a location on which to build our vision of a restaurant and brewery for Spooner. We did indeed work with the Hockey Consulting Group for some time and we were unable to come to an agreement on the property. That being said, I speak for the whole family when I say we’re thrilled to hear that the rink is operational! And as an avid hockey fan myself I’m anxious to watch the Muskies tear up some ice this coming season.
So that was when you moved forward and looked at other locations as well as putting in a bid for the vacant building at 302 Walnut?
You are correct! That is when we pursued other options, including but not limited to 302 Walnut, or the old dorm building for those unaware. Ultimately, however, Mort & Stephanie Dahl approached us and offered to sell The Dahl’s Home Store. The Dahl’s are great visionaries and enjoy being instrumental in continuing to bring new businesses into Spooner, not only this, but they’ve grown to become very close family friends and we can’t say enough how fortunate we are. It is awesome how things seem to work out in the end. There really aren’t words to express our excitement through this. We couldn’t be happier with our new location and home for Round Man Brewing Co.
How many and what kinds of craft beer will you be making?
Great question, and kind of a tough one to answer. As beer lovers, we don’t want to limit ourselves on any level. We’re continuing to play with recipes and different styles of brews. We’ll start with a variety of ales and lagers. Personally, the more hops the better. However, not everyone feels this way and we at Round Man want to make sure we aren’t just brewing beer for us. And that’s for our sake just as much as yours! But as far as actual numbers, we’ll likely run 5-6 beers at a time and probably rotate 15-20 different styles annually.
Who is making the beer? How does that process work?
There will be several integral members in the process. But we’ve been working very closely with our friend Brian Sunderland to create a bunch of recipes and try fun new styles. Brian has a ton of knowledge in the field of brewing and we’re very fortunate to have him on board with us. As far as the brewing process, it might be a bit more than I could explain as I’m not quite an expert just yet. This is again where Brian will come in. He has the knowledge and experience to help us through the whole process.
Is that the only beer you will be offering?
We plan to create an array of original Round Man brew’s to share with our customers, but with that being said we’ll certainly rotate a few guest taps in on a regular basis. We’ll also have a full bar and some signature cocktails. I wouldn’t be opposed to stocking a few different scotches either.
What audience are you trying to capture?
There’s no stone we’d like to leave unturned. We’re anxious to make a pleasing environment that is welcome to all sorts of friends, family, and thirsty customers. Our menu and drink variety will be family-friendly and be inviting for all to enjoy.
Let's talk food. Has there been any discussion on what types of food you will be making?
We have been working very hard with a local restaurant designer and are dialing in on final floor plans. (see attached photo) We anticipate the ability to seat approximately 80-100 people. Knowing that not everyone shares our love of craft beer, we will offer a plethora of other options including a nice selection of fine wines and non-alcoholic beverages as well. Our unique menu will complement our offerings and we will feature a vast array of different foods. Growing up, my father did most (actually all, sorry mom) of the cooking and he wasn’t short of skill. As “foodies” we are anxious to make an exciting menu that isn’t necessarily available locally. Family recipes will fuel our creations and will include things such as scotch eggs, pasta dishes, fish tacos, smoked meat sliders, steak & potatoes, fresh fish, ahi tuna, and other things of that variety. Once again we don’t want to limit ourselves. We’re having a blast with this and want to share that with our customers.
What're the next steps in construction?
We are finalizing the floor plans along with, plumbing, electrical and structural plans. After these are all approved by the state of Wisconsin we can apply for our building permit. In the meantime – there will be plenty of demolition work to do along the way. Throughout this whole project, we invite people to check in and snoop around and ask questions. We look forward to being open and inviting throughout the entire process.
Will you be doing anything before the grand opening next year?
From all members of my family, and especially myself included, we love a good party. A grand opening of some sort will be sure to happen. Until then keep your eye out for special events and other exciting news about upcoming brews!
What is the future of The Dock Coffee here in relation to Round Man?
The Dock Coffee will remain just what it is! It will continue to exist as our favorite happy, little coffee shop with a bubbly Churchill smile!
What else do you want the community to know about Round Man?
I think you’ve hit it on the head here, Ben. We love Spooner and are super excited to once again solidify our role in the community. Round Man will be a family owned and operated business chock full of attitude and atmosphere, just as The Dock Coffee is. To anyone that has any questions or wants more information on any part of our process we urge that you ask! We’re a fun group and can’t wait to share that with friends and family all of sorts.
Lastly, what are 3 things about you that most people might not know?
Three things about me. Yikes. Umm probably the most atypical thing about me is my passion for strength sports, as a senior in high school I was about sixty pounds heavier. If you don’t see me at the Dock Coffee or working at Round Man, you’ll probably find me at The Body Shop gym in Shell Lake. I’m super involved in both powerlifting and strongman training and it’s become a pretty integral part of my life. When I’m not there, I’m probably watching videos of cute dogs and cats, because for some reason that’s how I choose to spend my spare time. I’m a pretty big movie buff too. While naming favorites isn’t really my style, you’d probably be hard-pressed to find a Tarantino film that I couldn’t recite word for word, I’ve also seen pretty much every Disney movie way more than any one person should.
Thanks for the chat, Spencer.
And thank you, Ben!