Living so close to Chicago, Barrington businesses are constantly competing to keep money in the village.
For two local restaurants – Wool Street Grill & Sports Bar in the downtown area, and The Onion Pub & Brewery in Lake Barrington – achieving that goal has meant ignoring the competition between them and teaming up to bring the best of what both restaurants have to offer.
It started last November when Wool Street co-owner Mark Green called over to The Onion with an idea: What if Wool Street started selling and promoting beer from The Onion’s brewery?
“We were working on the project the next day,” Green said. “We had the product moving by December and the to-go product moving by late January, early February.”
John Kainz, an owner at The Onion, said the whole team was thrilled with the idea.
“We were totally behind it right away,” Kainz said. “We were kind of shocked, actually, that a bar would do it.”
Normally, Kainz has to send distributors out to sell the company’s brews. Wild Onion Brewing Co.’s beer can be found throughout the Midwest, but getting it sold elsewhere never is easy.
“Every handle that we try to get is a battle,” Kainz said. “To get one tap in a bar is tough, but to get six is just kind of a surprise.”
But that’s exactly what they got.
At the bar in Wool Street, the left side has been designated the craft beer corner, featuring six Wild Onion taps.
But Green didn’t stop there.
Earlier this year, owners secured a license that allows Wool Street to sell the beer “to-go.” Customers now can buy Wild Onion’s beer and take it home.
“A lot of people don’t know that we can our beer,” Kainz said.
Green said that while being local was a huge part of why he wanted to partner with Kainz, there were several other reasons, too.
“I did it because they are local but they also really have quality products,” Green said. “We think we’re serving a really outstanding product to that segment of the population who enjoys that level of beer.
It’s not priced at a point where it’s prohibitive. It’s just slightly above our average price point.”
The fact that Green gets along with the Kainz family is another plus.
“They’re just good guys,” Green said. “John has been really helpful, doing a lot of things that I don’t do well. You like to do business with people that you like.”
This local product initiative is something Green is moving into his restaurant’s menu, too.
Because he likes working with people he knows, he was happy to talk to Peter Grubbe from Harvard and Woodstock’s Middlebury Farms about a new partnership.
Middlebury is a certified organic produce farm, which is no easy feat.
According to Grubbe, the Midwest Organic Services Association checks in several times a year to make sure everything stays organic.
It also was hard to find a place to open the farm initially, because the soil couldn’t have any chemicals in it from previous farmers.
When Grubbe contacted Green about supplying fresh produce to Wool Street, Green started planning a new menu because he saw people
would pay a little more to get something local, fresh and healthy.
The agreement includes a promise that there will be less than 24 hours between the time the produce is picked and the time it is served in the restaurant.
“We just really want eventually to branch out to most of their menu items so they incorporate all our produce into their salads, burgers, pizza, and provide them with every vegetable they need seasonally,” said Grubbe, who grew up in Barrington and has been a customer at Wool Street for years. “We hope to do this for many years to come.”
Green shares that vision.
“I just want to grow the community appeal of locally sourcing and locally spending,” Green said.
He added that keeping money in Barrington businesses allows the funds to move into the village, funding improvements that benefit everyone.
“I want to make it easy for them to stay in Barrington,” he said.
“If that’s the case Wool Street wins, The Onion wins, Middlebury wins, Barrington wins, and Barrington as a community wins.”