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"I'm always trying to start a business out of something and make it bigger than it was," Gumpert says. Her childhood lemonade stand was about maximizing profits, and a high school scheme to steal clothes from stores and then sell them to her fellow students at half-price ended abruptly. "I did eventually get arrested for that," Gumpert says.
It was a chance meeting that legitimized Dead Canary. Adam Avery, the founder and brewmaster of Avery Brewing Co., was visiting Flying Saucer for a tasting event. Gumpert mentioned her idea for a mint-chocolate stout, and Avery was intrigued.
"I know, it was so girly," Gumpert says, laughing.
The women told Avery about their plans for a microbrewery, and he invited them to visit his company in Boulder, Colorado, for a weeklong boot camp. Avery opened his books and helped them write a business plan, in exchange for them helping out at his brewery.
"We got up at 4:30 a.m., which is usually when I was going to bed as a bartender," Gumpert says. "But I would have worked for 24 hours if they let me."
When they returned home, they began to think about transforming the second-floor space at 1324 West 12th Street (above the Laptop Squad, in the West Bottoms) into a microbrewery. They envisioned, Gumpert says, an "adult fun zone that wasn't so Dave and Buster-y." They played dodgeball with a pink ball purchased from Walgreens and served pints of home-brew.
"When you're a girl that knows about beer, guys would absolutely go nuts over that," Gumpert says.
But as they began considering the adjacent building, the former Kansas City Bolt, Nut and Screw Co. at 1326 West 12th Street, their only investor was forced to withdraw from the deal for personal reasons, and the prospects for Dead Canary dried up. Hardin enrolled in law school in New Orleans, and Gumpert began studying criminal justice at Kansas City, Kansas, Community College.
But today, as Gumpert surveys the local tapscape, she hasn't ruled out the possibility of starting a microbrewery. "It's a dream that will never die," she says.
There must be something in the beer, because Dave Shuck uses almost the exact same words to describe his continued belief in the Belton Brewing Co. Shuck was an IT-downsizing casualty when his wife, Christine, suggested, in the fall of 2008, that he follow his passion and open a brewery.
He'd been home-brewing since 1992, after developing his palate at the Toronado Pub, in San Francisco, which is often mentioned as one of the best beer bars in the country. Shuck also worked 10 months for Lagunitas Brewing Co. in Petaluma, California, after calling the business to say he planned to show up for work the following Monday, even though he'd never been interviewed or been offered a job.
He was still brewing beer when he moved from the West Coast to Overland Park in 2003. Five years later, Shuck developed a business plan for a canned-beer operation with a capacity for 2,500 barrels a year, featuring his pale ale and what he calls "a nice strong, hoppy India Pale Ale." As he began to investigate label art and canning lines, Shuck got a call from the bank. Perhaps, said the voice on the line, he ought to hold off a few months and wait to see what 2009 would bring.
It wasn't a great time to be in the microbrewery business. The Power Plant Restaurant & Brewery in Parkville had closed 11 days before Dead Canary made its manifesto public. And the Flying Monkey Brewery, despite surviving several ownership changes and a 1999 flood that left 5 feet of standing water inside its original Merriam bottling plant, succumbed to the economic conditions of 2008. While the Power Plant's lights stayed off, the Weston Brewing Co. picked up the Flying Monkey line as a contract brewer that December. The brand is still recovering from the move; its Amber Ale didn't return to stores in six-packs until earlier this month.