Things were looking good when Brown Iron Brewhouse owner Patti Eisenbraun expanded her business to a second Royal Oak location at Woodward Corners at 13 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue in 2020, but soon survival-or- The challenges.
“It was so exciting to open in Royal Oak,” said Eisenbran, who opened the craft beer smokehouse restaurant in Washington Township in 2015 with her business partner and chef Deni Smiljanovski. “We opened on March 1st, 2020 and we’ve done amazingly (on business) for the first few weeks.”
The pandemic took its course. Two weeks later, the state banned all indoor dining.
“Our sales have collapsed,” said Eisenbraun. “We went from 130 employees to 25.”
But she changed gears to adapt and continue serving customers.
The Royal Oak restaurant launched online take-out ordering, offering affordable ‘family pack’ meals and home delivery.
“We also made grocery cartons with essentials like toilet paper, fruit and veg and tailored our menu around that,” Eisenbraun said.
Because the Royal Oak restaurant was so new, it failed to qualify for many of the support grants to help businesses in the rough early days of the pandemic.
Her determination and resourcefulness to survive successfully led to the Small Business Association of Michigan recently honoring Eisenbraun with the 2022 Spirit of Entrepreneur Award.
“Patti Eisenbraun and the Brown Iron Brewhouse team continue to show the amazing things that can happen when entrepreneurs put their minds to something,” SBAM President and CEO Brian Calley said in a statement. “Despite the impossible timing and repeated setbacks caused by the pandemic, they have been able to continuously align their business to survive and thrive.”
The Rick Snyder Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award is named in honor of former Gov. Rick Snyder. The award-winning small business must have fewer than 500 employees, be headquartered in Michigan, and have a turnaround that enables it to achieve significant growth.
Eisenbraun received the award at SBAM’s recent annual Leadership Council Summit on Mackinac Island. The award was presented by Snyder and Calley.
Like many restaurant owners, Eisenbraun said it was finding it difficult to find staff after the pandemic restrictions were lifted.
“One thing that really saved us was youth,” she said. “So many high school and college students came and worked with us,” from hostesses to dishwashers
Brown Iron Brewhouse survived because of its past success and the support of Royal Oak and the surrounding community, she said.
“And the Royal Oak Eats Facebook page really helped spread the word, too,” Eisenbraun said. “They have done so much for restaurants.”