Milwaukee County Historical Society

Interview with Simon McConico, October 8, 2021

MCHS Oral History Collection


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00:00:18 - Background Information/Beer as a sin

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So, to start Simon, where and when were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Simon McConico, one of the founders of Milwaukee's Venture Brew Co., gives his background information. He talks about his family and childhood in Minneapolis, notably as a Pentecostal, where drinking was considered a sin. He then goes into how he got into drinking, especially craft beers, once he spent some time in Milwaukee.

Keywords: Background; Camaraderie; Childhood; Computer; Information; Music; Parents; Sports

Subjects: Art; Education; Family; Life; Milwaukee, WI; Minneapolis, MN; Religion

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Minneapolis, MN
00:03:50 - College/Post-College Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, did you-did you go to college after?

Segment Synopsis: McConico talks about his college experience, noting his major change from Pastoral Studies to Church Music. After college, he worked for the Milwaukee Rescue Mission as a program coordinator.

Keywords: College; Milwaukee Rescue Mission; Music; Pastoral Studies

Subjects: 2000s; Greenfield, WI; Major; Milwaukee, WI; Nonprofit; Oak Creek, WI; School

00:05:33 - Road to Brewing

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Partial Transcript: [John]: That doesn't, you know, to me, listening to that, how do you get from brewing to that?

Segment Synopsis: McConico talks about his experiences getting into brewing, which was an extremely uncommon path going from temp jobs to photography. He received a Home-Brewing kit from his in-laws, and fell down the "craft brewing rabbit hole." He eventually got a few friends to go together on a "guys trip," winding up at several local breweries, beginning their traditional "Beerventures." It was on those tours that he met the eventual co-founders of Vennture.

Keywords: Entrepreneur; Homebrewing; Job; Marriage; Photos; Stock Photography; Temp

Subjects: Career; Hobby; Lakefront Brewery; Life; Milwaukee, WI; Photography

00:11:16 - "Beerventure" and Differences in Beer Cultures

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Partial Transcript: [John]: When you would go on your trips together what were you looking at, looking for taste, or you know, just exploring?

Segment Synopsis: McConico talks a little more in-depth about his group's "Beerventures" across the Midwest (and Colorado), mentioning the differences in the craft beer cultures as represented by their styles of tours. He said that their experiences across the country had made them notice that Milwaukee's craft brewing culture was a little "lackluster"

Keywords: Adventure; Beer; Beer Culture; Brewing; Craft Beer; Tour

Subjects: Brewery; HIstory; Michigan; Midwest; Milwaukee, WI; Minneapolis, MN

00:14:38 - Beginning of Vennture

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So at what point did you say, you and Rob and Jake say "let's do this for real"?

Segment Synopsis: McConico talks about how the idea of Vennture started, with Rob and Jake floating the idea during their Illinois "Beerventure." They decided on the name Vennture, the two Ns like in a Venn diagram, making a play on that in their logo. With their idea, they decided to merge the craft beer and coffee trends prevalent in Milwaukee.

Keywords: Beer Culture; Brewing; Coffee; Coffee Culture; Vennture Brew Co.

Subjects: 2010s; Idea; Illinois; Milwaukee, WI

00:18:41 - Vennture's Location

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Partial Transcript: [John]: The location's at 55th and North Avenue. [Simon]: Mhm [John]: Why here?

Segment Synopsis: McConico talks about why he and his partners decided to place Vennture at their current location of 55th and North Ave., ultimately citing because it was somewhat close to where they all lived, but also because there were not many coffee shops or craft breweries significantly close. He goes on to talk about the diversity in the neighborhood, which he claims was important to them.

Keywords: Beer; Coffee; Vennture Brew Co.

Subjects: Brewery; Diversity; Location; Milwaukee, WI; Washington Heights; Wauwautosa, WI

00:20:57 - Partner Ownership

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Partial Transcript: [John]: A lot of, you know, when we talk to different brewers as a part of this Oral History project its either like oh this person is the sole owner or its a family thing. What's it like to work with two other partners?

Segment Synopsis: McConico goes through the dynamics of a partner relationship, going through their individual jobs and different strengths. He talks about it as a double edged sword, as having two other partners makes it easy in some aspects, but difficult in others. Ultimately, he recognizes that they could not have started this venture without each other, and that through pooling their resources, they were able to make their idea a reality.

Keywords: Beer; Coffee; Communication; Money; Vennture Brew Co.

Subjects: Challenges; Ownership; Partnership; Problem Solving; Relationship

00:23:39 - COVID Reactions

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Sure, um, were- [Simon]: ...Or at least assets. [John]: I mean we're in 2021 now, and the pandemic hit March of-more or less March of 2020, so we're eighteen months past the beginning of it. How has COVID-19 affected, like, what was that experience like number one, and how has it affected business?

Segment Synopsis: McConico talks about how COVID impacted Vennture, claiming that "business is doing fine [now]," and that during the pandemic, their business did not suffer nearly as much as others, as their "products can be consumed off site." So, they sold everything to-go for much of the pandemic, closing midday for production. They were supported by their neighborhood, which he claims was good, but scary because they had no product. He talks about how their business expanded during the pandemic, hiring on new workers. They shut down twice due to positive COVID cases, and their business has been steady.

Keywords: COVID; Pandemic Response; Vennture Brew Co.

Subjects: 2020s; 2021; Business; COVID-19 Pandemic; Pandemic

00:28:33 - Community/Expansion Potential

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So do you have plans or aspirations about exapnding? Do you think you'll ever move to a new location?

Segment Synopsis: McConico talks about potential expansion plans, claiming that they will most likely not leave their current location, as Vennture has become an institution within the community. He comments on potential expansions of production, but believes it would be very challenging to clone the community that they currently have in their neighborhood to another place.

Keywords: Customers; Development; Location; Neighborhood; Vennture Brew Co.

Subjects: Business; Community

00:29:54 - Diversity in the Brewing Industry

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, couple of bigger wrap-up questions as far as that, those things kinda go- um, uh, like diversity in the brewing industry is a big topic right now, you mentioned that you're in a really diverse area. Where do you see Vennture falling in that conversation?

Segment Synopsis: McConico talks about his business in terms of diversity in the beer industry, claiming that he has "a lot of ideas," like exploring putting something for Vennture somewhere "not on the east side," explaining that he would like to hire people in those areas to "open up opportunities." He also talks about diversity not necessarily only in terms of race, but economically, geographically, and in terms of gender.

Keywords: Beer; Beer Industry; Economics; Geography

Subjects: Brewing; Challenges; Diversity; Manufacturing; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:32:42 - Representative Object

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Partial Transcript: [John]: One question to end, so we're the Milwaukee County Historical Society, we have collections of objects, and we put on exhibitions and if, you know, way down the road in the future, if there's an exhibition and there's a Simon McConico/Vennture Brewing display, what is the artifact that you would say would represent you?

Segment Synopsis: McConico explains what object would represent him (and to an extent Vennture), claiming that his bright red pair of glasses, which were distinctive for him, especially while he worked at Draft and Vessel, a local bar. He said that was not only how people recognized him, but through that recognition as the "beer guy," he gained some credibility.

Keywords: Glasses; Object; Vennture Brew Co.

Subjects: Artifact; Draft & Vessel; HIstory; Museum