Byron & I want to open these updates on our expansion at our new facility by sharing the brief history of a great company – a company that I believe in with all of my heart – and describe the path that we have undertaken to become who we are. Byron & I both love to connect with people and listen to customers’ experiences. As we share our journey we hope you’ll share your memories with us. Striving to be the best and doing the right thing for the benefit of our community is the foundation upon which our business is built. We love craft beer and we love Tallahassee!
Byron and I met in Atlanta and moved to Tallahassee in 2005, before we were married, with the intention that we would help to develop a piece of property on Gaines St. and be back in Atlanta in 24 months or less. We, along with our partners, owned little more than a liquor license and the old ABC parcel on Gaines. With youth and unbridled drive on our side we had the intention to do great things for hospitality and retail in Tallahassee by creating a modern mixed-use building – the flagship concept was B3, a modern designed craft beer focused burger joint.
We realized very quickly that our intentions were not well received at that time. We hit roadblock after roadblock. We eventually came to terms with the fact that we were way ahead of the curve to do what we thought was right for the area. One specific individual said that the area would develop, but it would take about another decade – they were only slightly off the mark. We tried to develop the property until we couldn’t try anymore. Ultimately this was a failure; however, a failed idea can be moments away from a success story if you don’t give up and if you look at every angle to create opportunity. It takes grit to watch all of your plans and hard work crumble yet persevere and be flexible enough to build something completely different from where you began.
The deal evolved into purchasing our original building on W. Tennessee St. Once we moved our sites from Gaines to West Tennessee St. the seeds of Proof were planted. I remember thinking that if we created a cool, new style of boutique liquor store the customers would come and be attracted to the customer service and dedication to quality versus quantity and the price of the product.
Byron & I were the only employees in the beginning and we did everything on a shoestring budget. At one point, as I was chipping up the floors myself to save money on buildout, a friend popped in and said his wife would never consider doing hard labor. It was a shocking thing to hear, but I never considered any other option. For Byron and me, it’s a fine line between “hard labor” and “a labor of love.” From day one we have always tried to lead by example; a daunting concept when we were working 80 hours a week for the first few years, but we never shied away from doing anything that needed to be done. Byron and I have worked almost every position ourselves at some time or another. I had to barback on more than one occasion and he was the original staff member to train all of the retail & hospitality team. We both felt that the best way to earn respect from the team was to damn well be a part of it. Our unwritten policy, that still holds true today, is to work your way up from the bottom. Show everyone that no one is too good to do any job and that every job is respectable – even if you are cleaning up someone’s 21st birthday “experience” or cleaning kegs. I think one of the most challenging things for us was to actually progress from those intimate days with the team in order to actually grow the company. Our positions as team leaders evolved into much different rolls. We eventually didn’t have the time to write the day’s specials on the chalk board or cover retail shifts. In retrospect, there was a sweet simplicity to the beginning years.
In 2008, after a year in retail, one that focused on craft beer and unique brands of spirits, we determined that this wasn’t going to have long-term success if we didn’t come up with something else to drive people in the door. This was the second time in just a few short years that Byron and I could have given up but chose not to do so in the hopes that we could shift the social path for Tallahassee by offering a cool, unique hospitality concept.
We looked at what was working – high quality customer service, product knowledge and craft beer. Byron is incredibly skilled in looking at what we “have” and maximizing on it. In this case it was the liquor license. Florida is somewhat unique in the sense that you can run “off premise” and “on premise” liquor sales under one roof if there is a wall to separate the concepts. That is what we ran with, and Proof, a Modern American Pub, was born. This is when Byron and I really began to focus on craft beer. We spent countless hours and days driving to Orlando, Tampa and beyond to get beer that was not distributed in Tallahassee. It wasn’t delivered here because the thought was that there was no demand for it. We clearly showed that not only were there customers who loved and cared about great beer, but that the need for a high-quality brewery just might be the future. Our insane efforts paid off.
We spent a few years building other fantastic craft brands….and then we thought, why don’t WE become an incredible craft brand?!
In 2012 we hired a local homebrewer who made delicious beer, we bought the nano system, and hired a commercial brewer to train the original head brewer. This was one of the key components to our long-term success – making sure that the team had adequate training from professionals who knew process, procedure and production better than any of us did at the time. We determined that our brand, the Tallahassee born brand, was the direction we wanted the company to grow.
2014 was the most challenging year of my entire life. We were in another build out, had a 2-year-old that came to work with us daily, and we were just really trying to hold it together after so many years of dedicating EVERYTHING to growing the company. I was completely burned out and only capable of giving about 75% of myself to any endeavor – I was feeling failure for the first time. The company continued to successfully grow, but I was just so tired and just feeling spent. I was struggling to find the passion I once thrived on - a personal failure.
It was at this point that I realized just how tough I could be. For those of you who know Byron and me personally, you know that humor is sometimes the only thing that keeps us going. From that place, a place of humor and exhaustion, our family motto was created: “The Burroughs never dismount”. Through humor we found the strength to persevere. This ‘motto’ was even put on our Christmas card that year. I am pretty sure Ulli’s (our daughter) grandmother didn’t find it very amusing. It was the statement that got us through some very hard times: losing some of our longest-term employees, building out a new space, running 2 full time projects simultaneously, sleepless nights with a toddler, and a myriad of personal frustrations. This was the year I realized that outside of being a mom, my company is everything to me. It is who I am, what I take pride in, and that which defines me most as a person.
2015 to present, Byron and I have struggled, loved, learned, laughed, missed sleep, cried and felt every emotion you can possibly imagine. Over the years the most valuable lessons learned are these: lead by example and allow your team’s talents to thrive by offering creative control and a safe space for them to have a voice. Respect one another. Be flexible. NEVER give up. Never dismount.
Finding the balance between work and life is still a challenge, but we do the best we can – today and always. My passion was refueled by our amazing and talented team of brewers, sales rock stars and tasting room mad geniuses. I can’t explain how important our PBC family is in regard to our current success. I have witnessed team leaders crash and burn and true leaders evolve from the ashes. Regardless of how long it has taken to get here, it is our belief that Proof is in the beginning stage of it’s pure potential. We love our small family and our PBC team, our patrons, our beautiful city, and we love our first baby – Proof Brewing Co! Thank you for supporting PBC and we promise to continue to create the highest quality craft beer to help put Florida on the map as one of the best craft beer states. Thank you all for sharing this incredible journey with us. We hope that PBC can be a part of some of the best times in your lives, just as it has been in ours. We <3 TLH!!