Electronics, motorcycles, beer and Delaware are just some of the words to come up when summarizing the life of Brian Harpster over the last five years.
The self-proclaimed “beermonger” and owner of Barley Hopsters, 1 N. Sandusky St., said he’s enjoyed the warm reception from the city since he opened the bottle shop/bar in 2011.
“Delaware has been extremely welcoming,” he said. “The city’s been great to work with.”
Originally, Harpster worked in sales at an electronics company in Westerville. He was eventually promoted to manager, but the job meant less time in the field.
“I’m not a sitting in the office-type of person,” he said.
Harpster thought about opening a custom shop for motorcycles in Florida, but that idea filtered away after a reality show made the concept popular, creating a shop on nearly every corner in the area, he said.
He then turned his attention to the beer world. He looked at several communities in central Ohio: Dublin, Gahanna, Newark, New Albany and Westerville.
“It just kept coming back to Delaware,” he said. “There were no other bottle shops in there.”
Harpster opened the bottle shop as a carryout venue at the now former Thrifty Chic, 43 N. Sandusky St., before relocating the store to its current location in 2013. Since then the location has welcomed college students, older age groups and veterans. The 1,400-square-feet venue sells a variety of products, such as 650 bottles of worldwide beers, 120 wines and a home brew section. The business intends to expand its craft sodas to about 60 to 75 bottles from the region.
About 80 percent of the business is carryout, but the bar has an eclectic ambience, featuring a bar with a few beers on tap, indoor and outdoor seating areas and a laid-back group of people that visit.
“We’re starting to get more bar-like,” Harpster said. “[But] we don’t want to be a late-night place.”
But the owner does intend to expand hours for the business in the near future by staying open until 10 p.m. on weekdays and 11 to 11:30 p.m. on the weekends to accommodate the needs of people who return from a day’s work in Columbus and its suburbs.
Maintaining a good business culture is important to Harpster. In 2011, he started out with two employees, his wife and a friend. Harpster now employs five people, but in total he’s had 10 employees over the past five years, compared with other bars that have higher turnover, he said.
Aside from the employees, Harpster said he’s crafted good relations with his clientele. Through his bar he’s done charities for veterans and other organizations. His latest endeavor is helping a regular customer who was seriously injured in a motorcycle accident.
After spending a day with his family at Zoombezi Bay water park in Powell, Andy Lacy passed out while riding his motorcycle because of a medical condition. He suffered six fractured vertebrae and multiple broken bones and now lives at home, wearing a body cast until mid-September.
Harpster has organized a benefit dinner celebration for Lacy on Sept. 10. The plan is to do a motorcycle ride, starting at Barley Hopsters at noon before riding around central Ohio. The benefit will conclude at a venue yet-to-be-determined in the city, serving hot dogs and burgers in the evening.
While Barley Hopsters has enjoyed its welcome in Delaware, Harpster said he’s considering opening another shop in the area within the next two years.
“If you’re not growing, you’re dying,” he said.
Brandon Klein can be reached at 740-413-0904 or on Twitter at @brandoneklein.