Q&A with Zach Mack of Alphabet City Beer Co.
November 4, 2019
We talk beer, business and how no two days are the same at the shop
Along the way in partnering with 5,000 restaurants and bars, helping them in their mission of hospitality, we’ve met some fantastic industry people—brimming with fascinating stories of how they got to where they are. But nothing tells that story more than a snapshot into their day to day. We met up with Zach Mack, of Alphabet City Beer Co. in New York City to talk beer, building a business and how no two days are the same at the shop.
How did ABC Beer Co. get started?
Zach Mack: I first decided to go into business for myself when I realized that the desk job life was never going to fulfill me. I was lucky enough to have known my business partner for long enough to trust him and make such a quick decision to open shop. He called me one weekend and asked me if I wanted to open up the beer equivalent of his existing wine store—that it could be both a shop and a bar. It took me very little convincing to move away from my day job. His phone call happened on the perfect weekend when I was at home visiting family and realizing I was already having the scaries at 10:45 a.m. on a Saturday about going back to work on Monday. I thought to myself, I can’t do this anymore. And I haven’t looked back.
What did you do before you started working in hospitality?
Zach Mack: I've lived in Alphabet City since I moved to New York City right out of college. I was working at several media companies as a writer. The sunken feeling I had leaving the office after a day of staring at a computer screen is the exact opposite of what I feel now, seeing familiar faces every day and having a relationship with the people who are my neighbors. It's what makes all the hard work, late nights and early mornings worth it. For a solid nine months, I was going to work from 9:30AM to 7:00PM and would come home and quickly eat dinner with my business partner and stay up past midnight, planning out everything we needed to do to get ABC Beer Co. up and running. Having worked so many public-facing jobs here, it became clear to me early on that being in business in this neighborhood is a pleasure and a privilege.
How did you get interested in craft beer?
Zach Mack: I worked in the wine world for years but up until then, my interest in beer was doing personal research and self-education. It’s weird because it’s only been 7 years since we opened, but the industry was so nascent. By and large, New York City only had a handful of places that were considered craft beer bars. In Montreal, where I went to college, I remember seeing Unibroue’s La Fin Du Monde on the shelf and when I took a sip, I thought to myself, “beer can taste like this?” From that point on I was interested in it. The beer scene in Montreal was ahead of New York’s at this time. But even while opening ABC Beer Co., I knew I needed to learn more. I knew what it sounded like to sell wine and deal with people in spirits who didn’t know what they were talking about and still selling it and I didn’t want to be the beer equivalent to that.
What’s a typical day for you at ABC Beer Co?
Zach Mack: We have a great General Manager who has helped me build the business, so a lot of the day to day I’m able to work with great support. I do all of the beer buying for ABC so I come in, take stock, check emails and have meetings with my beer reps. I’ll pick kegs for the week and put in orders so that we can have an interesting beer program that people get excited about.
Zach Mack: I’ll have meetings with cheese reps as well since we have a grocery program. I’ll have phone calls from friends in media who want to know specific trends in beer or what’s happening in the industry. Then I carve out a decent amount of time to write about beer. I also have to factor in time to meet with people in the industry while maintaining face time with regulars and neighborhood folks who come in several times a week—which is a lot of the reason why I enjoy what I do. Since I live in this neighborhood too, I like to maintain what I call, “a living room without a lock on the door”—constantly having people come around and spend time in the shop.
Are your days similar or unpredictable?
Zach Mack: No two days look the same, except maybe my Mondays and Wednesdays, when I take a good chunk of my meetings, which is when my days are more static. It could be a leak in the basement, which is more of the day-to-day ownership stuff that pops up. That changes with the wind.
You host private events inside and outside of the space. How often are you dealing with that?
Zach Mack: There is a lot of different things that happen on a weekly basis here. A lot of which is wrangling with private events and putting together catering packages. We do a ton of private events for people where I’ll go and educate an entire office with an elevated pairing or tasting. These events are huge for us because they expand our reach. Instead of people always having to come to the space to taste and learn about beer, I can bring that experience to them.
These days you pretty much are your website and we see that people are doing research online before setting foot over here. We’ve always had an interest in these private events, but I’ve noticed an uptick in people coming to us through the website for offsite and onsite private events. We’re also seeing an increase in the caliber of potential clients as well as the number. Bigger names and companies are reaching out with interest.
What is the goal at the end of every business day? How does BentoBox support that?
Zach Mack: It's funny that 7 years in, the base reason of why we started—providing informed, friendly service to a neighborhood that we call home—is what fuels me the most day to day. And using BentoBox has helped me realize that you can get in front of more people with a good looking product and they can get to know you before they even step foot in your space. That’s the future of small business in this country—people doing research online before making any decision on what they’re going to do on any given night and especially planning a private party or larger event.
Last but not least: what’s your favorite beer?
Zach Mack: My favorite beer is what’s cold, in hand and shared with good people in beautiful surroundings.
We second that. Check out Zach and the team over at ABC Beer Co. at 96 Avenue C, New York, NY for your next big event or just to enjoy and learn a little more about craft beer. You can get in touch through their website at abcbeer.co.
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