Published May 14, 2018
Bärchen Beer Garden is owned by Ryan Miller, Vijay Malik, and Ryan Krieger. The business opened right before winter of 2017. Stop in and grab a cold one at 6209 Maple St. Ryan Miller also founded Benson Brewery, located just down the street.
Q1: Are you originally from Omaha?
Mr. Miller was born and raised in Omaha. He grew up in South Omaha and attended Bryan High School. After high school, he decided to venture some place warmer and attended college in San Diego. Fun fact, while he was attending school there, he lived on a boat.
Q2: What are some of your hobbies and passions?
Beer! Ryan told me that he used to be really into home-brewing. Also, he views Bärchen as his hobby, since he also has a full-time job working at a hedge fund, where he helps manage $1.5 Billion. You read that right, that was with a “B!” Omahans can also thank Ryan for starting Benson Brewery. Ryan told me that his biggest hobby, even more so than beer, is creating businesses.
Q3: Where did the idea for Bärchen come from?
Mr. Miller had visited many unique bars in his day, and had drank even more unique beers. The bar is a culmination of several different ideas from different establishments around the United States and Germany. He described Bärchen as being “a modern American beer hall inspired by German traditions.”
Q4: How did you know this was your passion?
During college, Ryan met another guy who lived on a boat in his marina. This gentleman introduced Ryan to homebrewing. Also, Ryan’s father lived in Colorado, which has a very large craft beer culture, exposing Ryan to many unique beers.
Q5: What was your goal when starting Bärchen?
The Benson location is the beta model of Bärchens. The business just closed on a property in Blackstone, where the second location is to open up in the near future. The Blackstone location is expected to be about three times the size of the original Benson spot. After the Blackstone location, Ryan said he will then start prospecting new cities to expand to.
Q6: Did you have any mentors or partners who have helped you?
Obviously, Ryan has his two other co-owners who help with operations and decision-making. However, he also had what he called a “beer mentor,” Tom Hennessey. Tom helped Ryan create a business that emphasized minimizing costs while keeping prices reasonable. Mr. Miller also mentioned how his grandmother had always been a very big supporter in his life. He went on to admit that building a successful business does take a little bit of luck, but as long as you are offering a product that others like, then you are moving in the right direction.
Q7: Were there any bars or businesses that Bärchen is inspired off of?
Ryan told me that there were several, but did not name any specifics. “You can tell, I am always really observing,” he explained. Bärchen took little ideas from many different bars that Mr. Miller had visited throughout the years.
Q8: What are some challenges you have encountered when starting a business?
The hardest part so far, according to Mr. Miller, has been finding employees who embrace the culture and the atmosphere of the bar and get things done the way him and the other owners want them to be done. He also referenced government entities and regulations that were tricky to figure out. The most important parts of running any business, Ryan told me, was making sure you manage your labor and your cashflows. Another challenge that all bars face is seating. “About 60% of your business comes in at the same time” during the week, he explained. While the bar may look entirely empty during most times of the week, when it comes to weekend nights, there may not even be enough seats for everybody.
Q9: What products and services does Bärchen offer?
Bärchen is a German-inspired bar, that has a beer garden. It has its core beer portfolio, which generally consists of between 15-20 German beers, and then rounds it out with a lot of craft beers from Scandinavia, Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Belgium, and New Zealand. All-in-all, the bar serves beers from about 10 different countries. The bar also offers sausages, sandwiches, and of course, pretzels for those who get hungry.
Q10: What makes Bärchen unique?
The 150-seat beer garden out back is what really allows Bärchen to stand out, since there really aren’t many bars in town that offer large outdoor spaces. Bärchen stands out in Benson because most bars in the area do not serve food of any kind, which is appealing for those late-night cravings.
Q11: Do you find it difficult to manage a budget for a small business?
Mr. Miller said that him and the other owners do sometimes struggle with prioritizing funds. For example, they are currently deciding on whether or not they should invest in more indoor seats before the summer rush starts or if they should wait until it is closer to winter, when more people will be hanging out inside the bar. “There’s a million things I want to do,” Ryan joked, “but you kind of have to bring yourself in and sit on your hands. It’s almost like that thing ‘count to ten before you say anything’ but instead it’s ‘count to ten before you do anything’ or else you can find yourself not disciplined in your process.”
Q12: What forms of advertising do you use?
Mr. Miller had a pretty blunt outlook on advertising, even going as far as calling it “a black hole” because you can’t be sure if anything is ever going to come out of it. Right now, Bärchen primarily uses social media to advertise. Ryan stated it was the cheapest and simplest way to start building a brand and create awareness about the new business. He mentioned that they will also donate money to good causes and host charity events, which indirectly gets the business’ name out there. Perhaps the coolest thing that
Q13: What’s next for Bärchen?
As mentioned above, Bärchen is expanding to a second location in Blackstone soon. After that, Mr. Miller told me there will probably only be one more Bärchen that comes to Omaha. However, the owners will then begin to look into other cities to expand into. I was told that the owners would probably look towards other Midwest cities or larger cities on the East Coast.
Q14: Is Bärchen involved in the Omaha community?
Ryan told me that they have a good relationship with the Omaha Humane Society, and actually hosted a fundraiser for them in Bärchen before the bar was officially open. Bärchen has an incredible approach to philanthropy. The bar will actually allow nonprofits to use their space for free if they need a venue for a charitable event. “We will literally give our space away,” Mr. Miller said, “and we try to help out with things we can get behind.”
Q15: What advice would you give to someone who is just starting their own business?
“DON’T!” he joked. Mr. Miller said that you need to raise more money than you think you will need. Costs tend to creep up on you and multiply quicker than expected. “If you think you’ll need ten cents, ask for a quarter,” he advised.
Q16: Do you find it difficult to balance your home life and business life?
Ryan said that he does find the balance difficult. He has two daughters, a wife, and a dog, as well as a full-time job outside of Bärchen. His family actually lives in D.C. but he comes to Omaha to check on Bärchen and do some work on the bar. He went on to say that he “thinks people underestimate how much is really going on at all times.”
Q17: What is your favorite beer that you serve?
Like any true beer connoisseur, Mr. Miller told me that his favorite beer is always changing. Right now, with the weather finally heating up and winter coming to an end, his favorite beer is the fruit Kolsch beer (item #1 on the menu). Generally, he tends to lean more towards IPAs.
Q18: What is your favorite part about doing business in the city of Omaha?
Ryan’s answer included how great he believed that Omaha had a great community. He also mentioned how it was nice to have a fairly low cost of entry because living costs and commercial costs are still on the lower side of the spectrum. Lastly, Ryan explained how it was exciting to be a part of Omaha’s growth. He feels honored to have grown up here, seen the city develop over the years, and is now able to contribute to its growth.
Q19: What is your current outlook of Omaha and where do you see the city headed?
“I think it’s underestimated how dynamic it is and how progressive of a place it is and the movements that we have,” Ryan gloated. He went on to say how there are a ton of people doing new things and bringing a lot to a great place.
Looking forward, Ryan said that he is glad some of our city’s older, abandoned sections are being revitalized and brought back to life. He acknowledged both past generations as well as the current generation and praised their dedication and effort of really shaping our city into something any resident here could be proud of.
Q20: Why should someone from New York, LA, or Chicago move to Omaha?
“Omaha has a lot of the attractions you find in those other places and the cost of living is unbeatable.”
“The path to achieve what you want to achieve is easier here. The cost of living is fantastic. The business climate is good. And the people here are fantastic.”
“Across the board, if you want to achieve, you can do it here. You don’t need to be at one of those other places.”