Walk into the Depot Craft Brewery and Distillery and you will see a little bit of Reno history with a modern vibe, an unbelievable building transformation, and a pioneering business for Reno’s redevelopment efforts. The Depot opened on New Year’s Eve of 2014 and has been thriving as Reno’s only craft brewery, distillery and restaurant all-in-one ever since. “They join others in the Fourth Street area who hope to gentrify another area of Reno like Midtown.” Chris Shanks, a Reno native, is one of the owners of the Depot, a co-owner of Louis’ Basque Corner, and also works as commercial real estate agent. Chris and his partners took on a huge renovation in order to restore a century old building, and developed something unique and welcoming in a struggling area of town. See some incredible before-and-after pictures here.
Chris and his business partner, Brandon Wright, used to brew beer together when they were roommates in college at the University of Nevada, Reno. Brandon continued his education for brewing at the World Brewing Institute, while Chris began working in commercial real estate after college. Together they became the perfect team to reunite with a new business idea for Reno.
Here is my Q&A with Chris Shanks as he gives us some insight on starting a business and what it takes to be an entrepreneur in the Biggest Little City.
How did you find the right location?
We needed to find something that was big enough for what we wanted to do, and the right location was key to our business. Next to Louis’ was a three-story brick building built in 1910, which originally served as the headquarters for the Nevada-California-Oregon Railway. When the owners agreed to sell the building, the Depot was born. The name was a no-brainer; it was simple and gave us an instant brand.
“Reno, especially in this area of town, still has a stigma that you have to fight every day. Whether it is crime, homelessness, or something else, it is all more visible in this location. When you are on the edges of the developed areas, you take on that risk but you can also find less expensive real estate. This area gave us a chance to reclaim some of Reno, and work with the existing architecture of a historic building.”
The Depot is one of three businesses that Chris is involved with. Where does he find his motivation?
It is my personality; to always be busy. I love having a project of my own to motivate myself, and working for someone else and meeting their goals just is not my personality. Being an business owner, you have good days and bad days, but you are pursuing your own path. It is rewarding, satisfying, and stressful. A lot of people don’t realize what it really is. There is beauty in working for a company too. Without having to worry about all of the details of running a business, many jobs allow you to make those entrepreneurial-like decisions and to be expressive as a manager. It just depends on your personality. My path is a product of the job market that my generation entered.
“Every recession brings an uptick of entrepreneurs. My passion wasn’t available so I went my own route.”
What does Chris do for his own personal development?
I keep an open mind. I stay educated because continuous learning and understanding different points of view can show you better ways to do things. There is always new information out there, never think that you are always right. People get stuck in a trap of being closed-minded and it keeps them from advancing in so many ways.
Look them up on Yelp and you will find a flood of five star reviews, but how do they utilize social media to their advantage in such a volatile industry?
We may have 300+ customers on a daily basis, and you have to be great 100% of the time, or you face negative reviews. There is a learning curve when it comes to turning it all off when you come home but you have to look at the responses and determine which ones are really valid. If it is something actionable that be can amended, then we will apologize and incentivize them to give us another chance to do it right. We don’t want to respond to every complaint on the internet for various reasons, but we want to respond to the ones that are a reflection of our business and something that we can use to do better.
What does he hope to see in Reno in the next few years?
Responsible growth. Growing with reckless abandon with a lot of speculation in mind is what led to the last recession. We should grow for the sake of need instead of building a huge supply in hopes of finding the demand. I hope to see projects that better our community, clean up downtown and make Reno a safe, clean place to live.
Chris’s advice for entrepreneurs:
Do what allows you to have a work-life balance. Happiness doesn’t have to be egocentric titltes where you own your own corporation. Don’t do something and then hope that it makes you happy. Do something that makes you happy and hope that it becomes something that you can make a living out of. The hard work is worth it, and doing something you like makes the hard work worthwhile. Try and identify niches where the business you are getting into isn’t dominated by larger corporations with economies of scale where they can out-compete you every time.
“Don’t’ just jump into the pool; understand the waters, and what might live in them.”
The next time you are looking for something unique and delicious in Reno, head to the Depot. If you have time, try and schedule a brewery tour. I promise, you will not be disappointed with the impressive forged copper and steel distillery, and friendliness of the staff. The transformation of the building alone is enough to pay a visit to somewhere that is the only one of its kind in downtown Reno. Supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs is so important to the growth and development of your hometown. Check out the Depot for lunch, dinner or weekend brunch today! Come for the food and atmosphere, and stay for their award winning craft beer and cocktails.
Photos Sourced from http://thedepotreno.com