The Pub Hits the Road
It sounds like the wackiest idea ever: A bar on wheels powered by brew-pounding pedalers.
Entrepreneurs: Eric Olson and Al Boyce, dedicated home brewers with day jobs–Olson teaches business at Normandale Community College in Bloomington, Minn., and Boyce is a computer programmer for U.S. Bank in St. Paul, Minn.
What Possessed Them: A fellow home brewer e-mailed Olson a photo of a crazy-looking pub on wheels in Europe. “I said, ‘Damn, this is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life.'” He tracked down the creators–brothers Henk and Zwier van Laar in (where else?) Amsterdam–and asked how to make one. They sold him one instead.
“Aha” Moment: In 2007, they got the first PedalPub rolling and sent e-mails out to friends and family, expecting a mild reaction. “But our e-mail list started to explode,” Olson says. “And that’s when I had the first inkling that this might be really successful.”
Startup: Savings and home-equity loans covered the $40,000 to buy their first PedalPub, plus $20,000 to buy a van, a trailer, insurance, storage and marketing materials.
Pedalmania: Olson and Boyce have six PedalPubs in the Twin Cities, one in Houston, plus licensees in Austin, Texas; Nashville, Tenn.; Lawrence, Kan., and Milwaukee; plus, one sold to Amstel Light.
Customers: Birthday parties, corporate events, even a wedding. Most are women–68 percent.
Vital Stats: PedalPubs weigh 2,340 pounds empty (without beer or drinkers) and have a top speed of 5 mph. They seat 10 pedalers, a bartender and a driver and rent for $160 to $190 per hour, BYOB.
2011 and Beyond: They plan to franchise the concept next year. Says Olson, “I’d love to see 500 of these things all over the country.”