Nick Wendowski and his wife bought Stone's Beer & Beverage in 2019. They had no experience in the industry and Nick's qualifications didn't go beyond liking good beer.
But after years in the corporate world, he realized he wanted something more meaningful out of his career. For him and his wife, that meant owning businesses in their home neighborhood. This would allow them to provide services (plural because his wife runs a yoga studio down the street) to their neighbors and feel like they were making a positive contribution to the community they love. Not to mention eliminating their commute and spending more time with one another.
How they bought the beer store is a long and winding tale involving a couple years, long nights, and a single beer with the store owner (check out the video clip for more on that), but the most compelling thoughts Nick shared came when I asked him about his 5-10 year vision for the business.
Here are some takeaways:
"I'm not obsessed with growth as a business owner," Nick said. This is super interesting. We're all so focused on growth that this opinion feels...almost transgressive. In a healthy way.
Instead, his goal is getting to a point where "it's all good," meaning everyone's taken care of and all stakeholders are happy. Here's how he's thinking about those stakeholders:
Stakeholder 1: Staff. Nick wants to make sure everyone who works at Stone's has a "joyful" experience, and feel that they're a better person for having worked there.
Stakeholder 2: Neighborhood customers. Nick wants his retail customers—who are also his neighbors—to feel happy with the store and proud to shop at the neighborhood beer shop.
Stakeholder 3: Brands he reps. Nick promised the brands he reps that he wouldn't take on so many others that they'd lose his attention. He's keeping that promise.
Stakeholder 4: Customers they distribute to. Similar to the brands they represent, Nick aims to provide his distribution customers a high quality experience, and does so by not growing too big.
And last but not least, stakeholder 5: Nick and his family. This deserves a paragraph:
Nick knows that you don't get into this line of work to cash in—"this is a make-a-living business," he said. But compared to his previous corporate job, it's got everything he's looking for as far as deeper meaning and how he spends his time on earth. "It's a lifestyle play" as he puts it.
And here's what that lifestyle allows: he sees his family all the time, and can even pop home for lunch if he wants; his customers are his neighbors, and he's providing an important service to a hyper-local place that he loves; he's not obsessing over career trajectory or business growth. Instead, he knows the humble place he'd like to be, and once he's there "it's all good."
Check out the interview clip for a lot more from Nick about his history, how he bought the business, the quirkiness of PA liquor laws, and, of course, his enlightened take on work, family, and community.