For Dana Walukiewicz and Shane Kingry, owners of the King Street Brewing Company, their passion for brewing beer first started around 20 years ago. For Dana, it was experimenting with different grains and batches. As for Shane, he picked it up from a family friend, recalling that, “When you’re a young man, you think it sounds really neat if you can make your own beer.”
Dana met Shane in 2007 at a Fourth of July picnic, and upon realizing Shane was a fellow home brewer, instantly started talking about their mutual interest. “We started this conversation and talked about recipes and beers that we brewed, and all of a sudden I mentioned to him, ‘You know, I always wanted to open up a brewery,’” says Dana. “One thing led to another, and before we knew it, it kind of just steamrolled into King Street Brewing Company.”
Like with any new business, getting started had its share of challenges. “There was a big transition. We were home brewers going up to a commercial system,” describes Dana. “Managing our growth has been challenging as well, buying additional equipment and getting it installed, getting it ready, and keeping up demand.”
In addition to the normal hurdles of starting a business, Dana and Shane had to navigate the obstacles and regulations that are specific to the brewing industry. Shane adds, “On top of working through the leasehold improvement process for our initial build out, our business is regulated by all three levels of government – local, state, federal – and to an extent some of these layers and processes are intertwined. It was a big learning process for us. Even with all of our research, I think we ran into something new and unexpected every week!”
When it came time to secure financing, they both turned to Alaska USA, their credit union of many years. “We worked with Robert McNaughton in commercial lending. He helped establish us with our initial equipment loan,” says Dana. “Since then, we have expanded the brewery three times. All through that process, Robert has been there helping us with additional loans. On the insurance side, Dena Lythgoe with Alaska USA Insurance Brokers has helped us make sure we were properly covered with insurance for our equipment, auto insurance for our vehicles, and workers’ compensation for our employees. It has been one-stop shopping for us.”
“Alaska USA has been a great partner, not only in our initial success and initial opening, but in our subsequent expansions,” continues Shane. “We sit down with Robert about once a year and assess where we are and where we need to go.”
November 2014 marks the third anniversary of King Street Brewing Company. According to Shane, “People are happy when they drink our beer. It’s really neat to actually make something that other people enjoy.” After recently expanding their equipment line and with plans to bring on more employees, they show no signs of slowing down. “It’s amazing how fast we’ve grown. Alaska USA has been there every step of the way, and we look forward to continuing with that,” says Dana.