Among all the subjective hyperbole that gets thrown around when it comes to beer (“best IPA,” “must-visit breweries,” “top-10 Pastry Stouts”), success is still an objective function. For businesses, it’s shown in dollars and cents and red and black ledgers.
By most accounts, Craft Beer Cellar has been just that. After opening as a curated retail store focused on beer in Belmont, Massachusetts in 2010, founders Kate Baker and Suzanne Schalow have overseen a rapid expansion that turned their venture into a franchise. There are now 31 such stores spread across the country, from New England to Florida, into the Midwest, Texas, and California.
When the first store opened, there were about 1,800 breweries in the country. When Baker and Schalow went national in 2013, there were 1,000 more. As the American industry creeps toward 7,000, its rapid growth reflects an opportunity Craft Beer Cellar has seized: more people are buying craft beer than ever, and the experience, selection, and education offered at these stores is meant to be among the best in the country.
“People take two steps in the door and they don’t know how to proceed,” franchisee Brian Shaw told The Boston Globe in 2013, not long after opening his own store in Newton, Massachusetts, less than a six-mile drive from the original Belmont location. “People say, ‘Oh my God, I didn’t know there was this much beer.’”
Shaw, who excitedly spoke of customer enthusiasm five years ago, now suggests there’s anything but. He didn’t want to say much for this story, telling GBH that he’s not aware of any growth for Craft Beer Cellar “here in Massachusetts or otherwise.” He’s trying to sell his store.
Objectively, it should be an exciting time for Craft Beer Cellar. Nine stores opened in 2016 and six more last year. Another six or seven could join the lineup in 2018, including booming beer states like Texas and North Carolina. But for as much success has bubbled up, enthusiasm among some franchise owners has gone flat, causing internal strife and public spats, including lawsuits. As of the end of May, only one new franchisee had signed in 2018 to open a future store, the same as the year prior.
In the last two years, Schalow says she’s spent “a couple hundred thousand dollars” in legal fees battling those who bought into the franchise, even using Boston attorney Phil Giordano on a de facto "full time basis" beginning in 2016. The financial ramifications, as well as personal and professional, have added up. She describes the actions of a small group of owners as akin to sabotage, vendettas against her to harm her business, even if it hurts their own in the process.
Numerous franchise owners, some confirmed by Schalow as those she’s clashed with, declined comment for this story. One, asking not to be identified, simply replied, "I am reminded of a lesson of my long ago childhood: If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all."
It's a sentiment that was shared multiple times, from different people. Each person insisting that any negative stories surrounding Craft Beer Cellar or its franchises was a bad thing, while also admitting that challenges facing the company—some of which went public over the last two years—came almost exclusively from infighting. Threats to a business’ success, they say, come directly from its people talking poorly of the company, which is exactly what has gone on for some time.
Schalow says that she and Baker, her partner in business and marriage, just want to be “business people and beer geeks,” but “it’s clear there’s an effect on our business and reputation across the country.”
Buying into the Craft Beer Cellar is more approachable than other franchise options. Store owners who want to become part of “The Brand,” as it’s called internally, must pay an upfront franchise fee of $25,000, but that’s actually on the low end of typical average buy-in, according to the Small Business Administration. Even the monthly royalty fee—2% of net sales—is well below the average of 6.7%, according to the International Franchise Association. The range of all-in startup costs to launch a stocked store for franchisees, depending on geography and its impact on real estate, has ranged from almost $60,000 to $150,000, according to Schalow.
Under the Craft Beer Cellar umbrella, store owners are provided with a host of materials, from “how-to” guides on opening a store, stocking shelves, connecting with distributors, and more, including support around marketing, technology, and education. This spring, the company unveiled a visual rebrand to offer a look “as mature as we were, as a retail outlet,” Schalow said. It cost $30,000, which was covered by ownership, but individual franchisees would have a year to change over all their existing signs and branding items with the new look on their own budget.
“They’re reachable day and night,” says Sandeep “Andy” Bajaj, who co-owns a Craft Beer Cellar in Westford, Massachusetts with his wife, Sue. “We have an internal system that we use to communicate and if we post a message, we get a reply from someone from The Brand within a few minutes. It could be Suzanne, Kate, Patrick, who does a lot of the tech work, Virginia, who does product support, or Phil, who does marketing.”
Brian Beaucher, who opened a Craft Beer Cellar in Grand Rapids with his wife, Jessica, left a Boston-based antique map business he started with his brother to open his own store. Despite also having done freelance work as a photographer and graphic designer and spending years co-owning a business, he saw a great benefit from joining the franchise after becoming friends with Baker and Schalow during his time in Boston.
“I didn’t want to jump into something unknown, so the idea of joining a franchise seemed really helpful,” he says. The franchise manual was a big deal, he says. “I’m sure it would have been a couple months’ worth of time trying to do it all on our own.”
But, as things often go with business, money is seen as one of the core challenges that has disrupted relationships and morale among franchisors and some franchisees. Bajaj and Beaucher expressed happiness with their experience as owners, but others have felt the opposite through a small collection of experiences.
Issues first arose in September 2015, when Jessica and Gustavo Villatoro opened a franchise in Sudbury, Massachusetts, which reportedly created animosity between the couple and Pat Loranger, owner of a nearby Craft Beer Cellar store in Framingham. According to the Boston Business Journal, the Villatoros didn't know about a five-mile radius of exclusivity included in a contract with Loranger, meaning no other franchises could open and compete in that vicinity. By public road, the two stores were separated by 5.7 miles via the shortest route, but were about 4.5 miles apart "as the crow flies.”
The court found in favor of Loranger, noting that the “five-mile radius shall be measured as a straight line.” In March 2016, Framingham got its exclusivity, which led to Sudbury closing in May that year and reopening as Sudbury Craft Beer. According to the Business Journal, the Villatoros also received $97,000 in arbitration from Craft Beer Stellar LLC, Baker and Schalow’s company for the beer retail stores. Schalow acknowledged a settlement, but wouldn’t confirm that exact figure. "There was a mistake and there's no denying that," she says, admitting that the issue was regrettably overlooked. Framingham closed earlier this year.
A similar case was raised to Baker and Schalow by Phil DiCarlo, owner of Craft Beer Cellar Fenway, due to a three-mile radius complaint focused on Craft Beer Cellar Fort Point. Depending on mapping system, the recorded distance can be tracked below, at or beyond that range. Both of those stores are still in operation and no legal action has taken place as of publication. DiCarlo declined to offer context for this story, only adding that “every negative story hurts fellow store owners.”
These instances appear to be at the root of a greater schism that created a lingering distrust with some.
“I'm writing in to you today to ask that action be taken to equalize fairness in the Massachusetts market of CBC stores,” franchisee Brian Shaw wrote in a July 2016 email to Schalow, Baker, and Marla Yarid-De La Cruz. (The latter was, at the time, a partner in Craft Beer Cellar. She later left the company and is still friends with the couple, Schalow says.) Shaw’s message arrived months after the previous legal action was taken against the company. A copy of the interaction was provided by Schalow.
Shaw's worry was the dilution of brand and sales opportunities after customers stopped coming to his store. It was "because another CBC store has opened closer to them,” he said in his email. There were too many stores and customer demand wasn’t high enough, and worse, he wrote, new stores would poach shoppers by promoting themselves over others. What was once presented as a family of stores, it seemed to Shaw, was now at conflict with itself.
On top of that, Shaw wrote there was favoritism shown by Baker and Schalow toward other stores, whether through marketing or allocation of sought-after beer. He didn’t specifically provide examples, but wrote about those issues in a general sense of what he saw was poor treatment of a long-term franchisee.
“We should be rewarded, not harmed or put in less fair arrangements as compared to these new stores,” he wrote. “It has been the desire of mine, and other stores in Massachusetts, to open more than one location so that I can make a career out of this. You have since saturated the market and taken away that ability.”
According to Schalow, Shaw had been presented with an opportunity to lock in an expanded exclusive territory for his franchise store in January 2016. His original agreement provided 3.5 protected miles around the Newton store and, in an exchange with Schalow on Jan. 23, 2016, she suggested they consider expanding it to four miles. Shaw replied that he'd be interested, and would want to reconnect after February 1. On March 16, Schalow attempted to revive the conversation. She says she never heard back.
The issue came back to the forefront in Shaw’s July email. At the time, the closest Craft Beer Cellar stores to Newton included the flagship Belmont location (about four miles by a straight line), Fenway (about six miles) and Winchester (about eight miles). Two others were 15 or more miles away. In his email and in Schalow’s response, neither mentioned the potential impact that non-Craft Beer Cellar bars, restaurants, or bottle shops may have on the business.
It’s unclear what steps Shaw took to change trajectory in 2017. As an entrepreneur who helped create a Boston-based social sports league company, he's spent almost a decade as a startup consultant, and he lists "revenue generation" as his first professional specialty on his LinkedIn profile.
Schalow denies Shaw’s financial accusations, which also claimed an annual income under federal poverty level for a family of one, which was just more than $12,000 a year at the time in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. In a response, Schalow noted that Craft Beer Cellar had reduced Shaw's franchise fee in 2013 from $15,000 to $10,000 and reduced monthly royalties from 2.5% to 2% as a means to help him financially. (The chain's monthly royalties were originally 4% when Craft Beer Cellar began franchising, but were reduced not long after and currently stand at 2% today.)
“We felt like he was fishing for a response to some degree,” Schalow tells GBH. “He’s the closest store to me, so I know that what I see is hard work and people showing up, doing what they need to do to maintain a customer base.”
Shaw says he “meant every word” of the challenges he brought up in the email, adding “the initial issues we had are just as anybody has” in trying to run a successful business.
“I want to move forward as positive as possible,” Shaw tells GBH.
Despite the issues behind the scenes, publicly, things were still going well. Nine stores had opened in 2016, including two in November—one in Texas and another in Missouri. But in early December, things changed quickly.
An internal memo, sent to franchisees on Dec. 1, 2016, was leaked to industry members and media that detailed a list of brands that could and could not be sold in stores. National mainstays like Sierra Nevada and Firestone Walker were included as breweries OK to sell, while local businesses, like Down The Road Brewery and Hopsters were deemed "not fit for consumption" due to perceived issues with quality by Craft Beer Cellar leadership. It was made clear that blacklisted beers could be shifted away from the "do not buy" collection.
Before the year could come to a close, the company found itself in more legal hot water. In an interview with Brewbound, one attorney suggested the “do not buy” list was illegal, potentially violating a state regulation that denies licensees the ability to induce, persuade, or influence others “for the purchase of any particular brand or kind of alcoholic beverages, or to persuade or influence any person to refrain from purchasing, or contracting for the purchase of any particular brand or kind of alcoholic beverages.” Some breweries said they would consider legal action, potentially based around an act of degradation or defamation toward their brands. Nothing came of those threats.
It was at this point that internal strife became rather public, as the ranks of franchisee dissenters reached around 10, a similar figure to what Schalow suspects today. The situation set a pattern that has continued, however, as none of the Craft Beer Cellar owners would speak openly about their issues, only providing anonymous comments to press and on industry message boards.
“The original CBC aura of a family looking for a collaborative approach to spreading our love of craft beer has dissipated into a bullied approach of controlling the stores without collaboration or input from them, which has caused increased expenses and hardships on several levels,” one anonymous franchisee told Bostinno in December 2016. “This actively costs us a higher level of expenses, directly removes revenue, and creates more problems with efficiency and workload.”
The situation led to an acknowledgement from Baker and Schalow, who went on to create an “Approved Beer List” which included a product evaluation team to make monthly changes to the list of recommended items.
“It is neither Craft Beer Cellar’s intent or purpose to exclude amazing liquid that consumers are interested in,” Baker and Schalow shared on their company blog. “It is also not our mission to stand idly by and not participate in educational conversations about all that is going on in this industry. We have always held in the very highest regard, the beer, our education, and taking the very best care of our customers that we can.
Anonymous comments from franchisees continued, suggesting the new list was simply a renamed version of what had already existed. Meanwhile, this behind-the-scenes approach to airing grievances hasn’t stopped, and now stands at the center of new legal issues.
In reporting this story, GBH reached out to 13 different Craft Beer Cellar franchisees, four who did not reply and five who provided some variation of “no comment.” GBH did, however, receive two unsolicited, anonymous responses condemning Craft Beer Cellar and Schalow specifically.
Hours after reaching out only to Brian Shaw, the owner from Newton, Massachusetts, and Brandon Nickelson, owner of a store in Clayton, Missouri and in-planning store in St. Louis, an email was sent from "firstname.lastname@example.org" telling a GBH reporter that "You are too close to S and spend all your time complimenting her and CBC. No one will speak to you on record." At that point, GBH had only attempted to contact Shaw, Nickelson, and Schalow. All three denied any involvement with this or other anonymous contact with GBH.
"S" was presumably in reference to Schalow, who had appeared on an episode of the Good Beer Hunting podcast in July 2017 with GBH founder Michael Kiser, and also joined GBH's Fervent Few community, which is comprised of readers, brewers, retailers and a variety of industry professionals. In the group’s online Slack channel, Schalow engaged in an “Ask Me Anything” session with other Fervent Few members, along with occasional posts interacting with the community on beer and related news.
Interactions on Twitter, written by Kiser, had been kept to several comments complimenting Schlow on her advocacy for diversity and inclusion and another suggesting to share a beer at a later date. He also tweeted about the leaked beer list issue, though he did not engage with Schalow, beginning a thread on what constituted “quality” and the responsibility of acting as a curator for customers in a specialty shop.
"S doesn't need anything else to fire her up," the emailer later wrote. "She's already going after franchisees and Glassdoor in federal court. I like my money in my pocket and not in a lawyer's pocket. Good luck writing your puff piece about how great CBC and S are."
The Glassdoor reference was related to a March 2018 complaint and demand for jury trial issued by Craft Beer Stellar, the company created by Baker and Schalow, against the online ratings website that allows employees and former employees to anonymously review employers.
Beginning in mid-November 2017, two weeks before the internal buy/do not buy beer list was leaked, anonymous ratings began appearing on Glassdoor, all but one wildly negative. "A mess for prospective franchise owners" headlined one. "Worst decision of my life." read another. "Other negative reviews are spot on. Worst decision and years of our lives." tried to act as something of a greatest hits, pulling quotes from previous negative reviews.
They continued. One in January 2018. Two more in February. Four in March.
During the same time period as the reviews, two anonymous Twitter accounts were created, their content on the site seemingly existing only to troll Schalow and Craft Beer Cellar. Between November 2017 and March 2018, “Beermaster” and “CraftBeerMass” had mostly one-way conversations on the platform, at times taunting the owners about closed stores and legal issues, and also proudly displaying screenshots of being blocked by Craft Beer Cellar’s main Twitter account.
At one point, "Beermaster" tweeted at handles for BeerAdvocate and its co-founder Jason Alström, saying they should write a story about the franchise and its perceived troubles. The same day, they also wrote to Chris Furnari, editor of Brewbound, asking the same thing and specifically mentioning the Glassdoor reviews. Neither tweet received a reply and as of this story’s publication time, nearly all Craft Beer Cellar franchisees contacted by GBH turned down the opportunity to talk.
Still, the Twitter accounts seemed to be secondary to Glassdoor, which included detailed and angry reviews. Themes among them are similar, including “pros” about making valuable relationships in the beer industry and listing “cons” about sales projections, marketing skills, technology systems, and more. The reviews specifically call out Schalow over and over, claiming mismanagement, dishonesty, and one calling her “The Trump Insult Machine.”
“As an owner, I fully endorse the other comments,” one anonymous poster wrote under the headline of "Do not buy a franchise." “Suzanne is a brash woman who bullies and calls names when confronted about anything.”
The irony was not lost on Schalow. She was being called names and felt harassed on Twitter and Glassdoor, but nobody would talk to her directly. Requests from GBH to various franchisees to learn details of improper management were also declined.
Craft Beer Stellar had contacted Glassdoor in February 2018 requesting that six reviews be taken down due to content that Schalow felt crossed a line. One was removed because it violated Glassdoor’s terms of service due to mention of a non-management employee by name, but was then reposted without that reference. Craft Beer Stellar’s lawsuit asked that reviews be taken down from the site, citing defamation as well as breach in confidentiality and sharing trade secrets due to discussion of sales projections and the franchise's proprietary informational manual for owners. The lawsuit seeks $75,000 in damages, though Schalow estimates a potential cost to the company near $500,000 due to loss of possible signed franchisees and associated fees and revenues.
In mid-May, Glassdoor responded by asking for a dismissal of the suit, saying Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act allows for such posts, since they are created by third-party users and the website only hosts them. Craft Beer Cellar then filed an opposition on May 25.
Schalow and Baker’s path to a legal victory may not be easy, as Glassdoor has championed its efforts in fighting similar lawsuits, saying the company receives hundreds of such requests each year and even hosts a running tally of its court wins on its website. Glassdoor’s willingness to allow for posts similar to those calling out Craft Beer Cellar have regularly put them in the crosshairs of employers, but it’s seen as a key component to Glassdoor’s ongoing effort to protect free speech, “which includes the ability of people everywhere to leave anonymous reviews of their workplace experiences.”
Beaucher, co-owner of the Grand Rapids store, said that he is aware of the Glassdoor reviews and is confused about their purpose. “Any negativity out there publicly hurts everyone,” he says.
Like any entrepreneur, he’s been working hard to boost the prospects of his small business, opening at 10 a.m. six days a week to allow shoppers to come in early, working with the city to expand nearby parking options, and hosting weekly tastings, educational classes, and happy hour specials. He’s added a small menu so visitors who want to sit and have a drink from one of his 20 draft lines can snack on hot dogs, pretzels with beer cheese, or mini flatbread pizzas.
He says communication and insight from Baker and Schalow have been great, and aside from a normal concern of how to get more foot traffic, something all businesses strive for, doesn’t understand why other franchisees would want to tarnish the brand or dissuade potential shoppers.
“When I ask a customer how their day is, I really want to know and really want to spend time with them,” he says. “Sometimes I’ll walk around and hand pick six-packs for them because I want to push hospitality as high as possible.”
A worry over public perception is front of mind for Schalow, but there’s also confusion. “Why would you do something or try to trash something that would bring your own business down?” she asks about the negative reviews, which she believes were written by the angry franchisees. Some reviews intimate its author is a past or present owner. In conversations with GBH, Schalow mentioned she feels the attacks are partially rooted in sexist attitudes toward her and Baker, though language in the reviews and elsewhere doesn’t publicly state as much.
Days after receiving an initial communication from email@example.com, a second, unsolicited note was sent to a GBH reporter, though this time from an encrypted ProtonMail email account, which prides itself as the "world's largest secure email service."
“I am hoping you realize that writing a positive piece about that company and the garbage human that runs it is not a good thing to do,” it read. “Don't feed into the bullcrap they are selling.”
The interaction is something of an epitome of the past year, opinions of a vocal minority shared secretively and anonymously. For some franchisees, however, these impressions couldn’t be further from their own truth.
“Being completely new to owning a business, they provided me with a good foundation,” says Andrea Cross-Dial, who’s set to open a new Craft Beer Cellar this summer in Cary, North Carolina. “I feel a lot more comfortable because I’m able to build off the experience that not only Kate and Suzanne have from starting the franchise, but from other store owners, too.”
Cross-Dial is behind one of five or six new stores that could open before the end of the year, a former-nuclear-engineer-turned-professional-beer-geek. After spending 20 years providing analysis of nuclear power for energy companies, she was laid off at the end of 2016. Seeking a second act, she reconnected with former coworker, Ryan Maas, who had opened a Craft Beer Cellar in Lynchburg, Virginia. Maybe that could be it, she reasoned.
Having lived in North Carolina for two decades and having watched the state’s rapidly-growing beer scene evolve, she saw an opportunity to bridge a personal passion with profesional excitement. Most of her career was spent at large corporations, and it was time to work for herself, for the first time. She had enjoyed visiting North Carolina breweries, which have nearly tripled in number in the last five years, and saw increased appreciation in Cary, just west of the state capital of Raleigh, which added more than 11,000 residents in the same timespan.
“I’ll either succeed or fail on my own, but having the backing of the Craft Beer Cellar franchise made me feel more comfortable because it’s people who have done this before,” she says. “If I had been doing it completely on my own, I probably wouldn’t have done it.”
After signing a franchise agreement in September 2017, Cross-Dial says she got assistance from its “blueprint” from the start, which guided her through locating an ideal space, identifying ways to increase her education, tips for social media, and preparation for a customer service role, for which she had never held before. She spent a week in Massachusetts for in-person training at the Belmont store with Baker, Schalow, and their team, and got help setting up relationships and expectations with distributors local to her store, something she says she wasn’t entirely comfortable navigating by herself at first.
What she does realize from the get-go is the uniqueness of her space and location. Meaning that what works for another Craft Beer Cellar store in Hickory, North Carolina might not be transferable for her. Or, for that matter, what’s successful for her friend, Mass, in Virginia, or Schalow in Belmont. Ciders and gluten-reduced beers might be favored by a more health conscious crowd in Cary, for instance. Her Craft Beer Cellar is going in on the ground floor of an apartment complex adjacent to new housing subdivisions, so having 12 curated taps to create a social space will be valuable. She feels the Craft Beer Cellar name offers trust to consumers.
Cross-Dial wasn’t familiar with the complaints lodged via Glassdoor, but they don’t change her mind. The support she’s received from Baker and Schalow, along with other franchisees, makes her confident. “Everyone is definitely engaged and very open to communicating,” she says.
Similarly, Andy Bajaj, the co-owner from Westford, Massachusetts, says that his interactions with Craft Beer Cellar leadership has led to “over-communicating” thoughts, ideas, and details, “which is a good thing.” He appreciates the fact that he can get help with something like social media deliverables the day he asks for them.
“With anything, you can find faults in how you choose to do things,” he says. “If you choose to look at things negatively, you’ll only find negative things. With any small business, there are ups and downs, so if there are downs, and you start pointing fingers, it’s going to seem bad.”
“But this is fun,” he continued. “It’s beer. I look forward to it every day.”
Bajaj and his wife bought into the Craft Beer franchise just over a year ago, buying the Westford store from former owner Walter Miska, a local entrepreneur who is now on his fourth business. The location had already been open for three years, and the Bajajs found an enthusiastic customer base made their decision easier to buy in. He sees the proximity to other stores in the Boston area as a benefit—if a shopper from Westford works in Boston and finds something they like at another Craft Beer Cellar, there’s a good chance they’ll want to buy it from him, closer to home. He’s found camaraderie, too.
“Somebody at one of the stores recently ran out of price stickers to put on cans, so one of the first things they do was pick up the phone and call other stores,” Bajaj says. “I told them absolutely I want to help, here you go. I look at this as very positive.”
When Portland, Maine’s Lone Pine Brewing Co. decided to do a small, exclusive release to a handful of accounts in the Boston area, Bajaj said that because the brewery chose to have an event at the flagship Belmont store, it could benefit all the franchises, because it boosts the company name. “We’re the same family,” he adds, noting that allotments from breweries like Somerville’s Small Change Brewing may not be as big if he was an independent beer store versus a franchisee.
Bajaj and Cross-Dial both talk with ease about the advantage they see of being under the Craft Beer Cellar umbrella, which starts with guidance on how to best launch a business and extends to what they see as almost around-the-clock support. It’s an entirely different point of view than the anonymous comments scattered across the internet, perhaps representative of how these things typically go. Log onto Yelp, Google Reviews, or any other site, and it’s hard to find a middle ground. In a general sense, these situations are formed by anger or appreciation. It’s left up to a reader to determine the balance.
The truth of the matter is that many of the challenges facing Craft Beer Cellar franchisees are part of the process of owning a business. Especially one in an evolving and increasingly-competitive beer industry. Schalow estimates that about 80% of the people who buy into the company to own their own store are first-time entrepreneurs. Cross-Dial came from engineering. Andy Bajaj still works part time in software, while his wife retired from her job as a kindergarten teacher. These backgrounds sound a lot like the never-ending collection of stories told by brewery owners, who left various positions in corporate life to pursue something they cared about.
However, given the difficulties of the past two years, “we’re starting to question ‘passion’ and what that means,” Schalow says. To her, it’s not just about having financial backing to open a store. Rather, assessing potential partners is just as much about fit and connecting in the right way. Which all sounds less like a failing business and more like challenges that regularly face a growing one. Mistakes can be learning experiences, even if they’re pricey ones.
“There’s no doubt that Kate and I can look back at all this and poke holes in our own process,” Schalow says.
In a conversation with GBH, Schalow said a recent interview with Hill Farmstead founder Shaun Hill resonated with her. Published in the UK’s Morning Advertiser, the story included comments from Hill about the mental and physical health tolls from working in beer, including long hours and high-pressure situations.
“While it’s somewhat emotional and somewhat frustrating, we continue to believe and have faith that we’ll end up righting the ship,” Schalow says. “I think at the end of the day, we’re human and we have emotions. There are good days, there are great days, and there are some days you feel beat up and you have some of those thoughts of, ‘Why am I doing this?’”
The answer, she believes, is to help build and support the industry around her. She wants to educate consumers through Craft Beer Cellar’s “Beercierge” program, designed to build on the Cicerone platform, with extra focus on sales skills and hospitality. She wants to find new breweries to showcase for new fans. She still considers the costs, however, even as she happily suggests “the legal cases and battles are over” when it comes to disagreements and potential out-of-court settlements with franchisees.
"Sometimes you just got to paddle a little harder and not give up," Schalow says. "Eventually, these things go away, and we'll keep pushing forward."