- July 19, 2018
On a quiet street corner in Whitehall, Hokey Beverage is once again serving the community. With a refreshed attitude and lots of enthusiasm, new owner Berny LoBaido, along with manager Karen Pitts, have brought this beer shop back to life and are determined to make it better than ever. This is one shop where you can get world-class beers with a small-town feel.
Heady Times (HT): How did you get into this business?
Berny LoBaido (BL): We’re restaurant people; I was a chef and Karen was my restaurant manager. After buying this property, we looked into making it a café or ice cream shop, but there would have been issues with parking. Locals kept asking if we were reopening Hokey Beverage, the beer distributor that had been here for 55 years, so we decided to go with it.
HT: So it’s safe to say you’ve been welcomed by the community?
Karen Pitts (KP): Yes, this town has such a great small community atmosphere. Almost every customer we meet tells us they live “just down the block”. They feel like this is their shop.
BL: In the short amount of time we’ve been open, we’ve gotten to know so many of our customers, which makes for nice camaraderie over the counter.
KP: It’s almost like the TV show Cheers!
HT: What experience or knowledge did you bring from the restaurant industry to the retail store?
BL: Definitely customer relations – the restaurant industry was losing that. When a restaurant gets a liquor license, the quality of food tends to go down because they can make a majority of their money on alcoholic beverages. Our restaurant was BYOB so we could really focus on the quality of our food and our interactions with customers. Another aspect we have a focus on is serving a wide range of customers. It’s important to us to have a large variety of styles, packages and a range of price points so there is something for everyone.
HT: Do you use any technology to inform the community that Hokey Beverage is up and running again?
KP: We use social media, mostly Facebook. We went old school and had a kid handing out fliers around town when we first opened.
BL: We also have a following from our restaurant, and Hokey Beverage still had a customer base from the years it was in business.
HT: What sells well here?
BL: Coors products, a lot of Corona and craft beer, especially Dogfish. If there’s something we don’t have, we’ll order it; no deposit required. We’ve probably already had 75-100 special orders since we opened in May.
KP: The growler and crowler station has also been very popular here; it’s big with millennials.
HT: How do you decide which beers to offer for growler/crowler fills?
BL: We’ll give everything a chance, but we like to stick with things that aren’t available in bottles or cans. A lot of beers we have featured so far were customer requests or brands we knew were popular. The first keg we went through was 2SP St. Seditious. It’s all about finding a balance between semi-rare beers and things you won’t get stuck with. If something is slower moving, we try to sample it out.
The growler/crowler station at Hokey Beverage
HokeyBeverage.com • 3144 N Front St., Whitehall • 610-443-0470