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In the retail business world, everything reverts back to location.
The way owner Mak Mam has got it figured, a move one mile west on Cumberland Street is the next logical step in the evolution of Union Beer House.
“It’s because we’re renting our spot now,” said Mam. “The main reason is we want to own our own property. It’s going to be ours. I had an opportunity. I saw Country Cupboard become available and I jumped on it right away.”
Things are fluid. The move is coming. But sometimes the wheels of change turn slowly.
Mam purchased the former Country Cupboard property at 2631 W. Cumberland St. in North Lebanon Township for $550,000 14 months ago. But, partly because of increased costs due to the lingering effects of the pandemic and some miscommunications with a former contractor, renovation of the new location only began two weeks ago.
Read More: Union Beer House plans mid-2022 move to former Country Cupboard
The renovation is expected to take three to five months to complete, and Mam hopes to move his current Union Beer House operation at 1600 W. Cumberland St., North Cornwall Township, in the early months of 2023.
Union Beer House offers one of the largest selections of craft, domestic and imported beers – bottles, cans or tap – in Lebanon County, and the plan calls for the business to take its loyal, decade-developed clientele with it.
“Everything is moving forward,” said Mam, a 45-year-old resident of North Cornwall. “We have a distributor right next door to us, which has become a challenge, and now Rutter’s across the street sells beer. But we still do well here. The move is all about owning our own place, making our own rules, calling our own shots and getting away from those other places.
“The Rutter’s has been there for about two or three years now,” continued Mam. “I think any place that is selling beer to go is going to affect your business. But it didn’t affect our business as much as I thought it would. I think their prices are a little too high, but they have their clientele.”
While it has built its local reputation on selection, service and convenience, the Union Beer House also offers an underrated menu of eat-in or take-out food items like appetizers, Asian-inspired food, sandwiches and especially cheese steaks. But the impending move has caused Mam to re-evaluate the products and services that Union Beer House offers, what works and what doesn’t.
Read More: Union Beer House: more than just a beer house (Lebanon Valley Food Critics)
Because the former Country Cupboard spot is so much larger than its current space, the new Union Beer House building could be subdivided to accommodate a possible tenant.
“We have a ton of beers,” said Mam. “We’re almost oversaturated. It’s a lot to handle and we’re going to cut back by about 50 percent. We’re going to focus more on quality.
“I’m big on cheese steaks,” he added. “We make a pretty good one. It’s kind of comfort food. But we’re going to mix it up a little bit. We don’t do much marketing or advertising. But I think our food is really good. I think people underestimate it. When they order it, it’s like, ‘This is really good food.’”
It’s been 10 years since Mam purchased the former Country Garden Six-Pack business on Oct. 21, 2012. The previous owners had operated Country Garden Six-Pack at 16th and Cumberland streets since 1998.
Of course, 1600 W. Cumberland St. is the former site of Lebanon’s iconic nightclub Kass’s Friendly Bar.
“I am passionate about craft beer,” said Mam. “I am passionate about my business. Everything is coming together. I think the new location is going to be a great place to come and hang out.
“I think if I can do it, anyone can do it,” he continued. “It comes down to how much you want it. It comes down to the person. If you give the effort, anything can happen. It’s on you. I like enjoying a good craft beer. I enjoy selling craft beer. I’m into it. Most of my clientele knows that I always have a good IPA on tap.”
Mam has transformed his passion into a successful business.
When he founded Union Beer House it was at a time when the craft beer industry was really taking off. Now 10 years later, the popularity of craft beer seems to have remained relatively constant.
“The taste of the beer changes,” said Mam. “Craft beer was really, really big, and it still is. Everybody wants to try a different beer. But I think we’re slowly veering away from that. The younger people want healthier drinks and to be more health conscious.
“Seltzers are really hot right now,” Mam continued. “But I’m still pushing for good beers. There are people out there who really want to drink good beer. As long as I’m selling good beer and they’re happy with it, I’m happy. I want to please my clientele. I want to take care of them.”
In a world where change is the only constant, people crave a place they can rely on.
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