KANNAPOLIS, NC (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – There is no playbook for a small and brand new business to navigate a pandemic. It’s part of the reason why veterans Stefan Perrine and Kyle Lingafelt are taking it one day at a time and writing their own.
In February, the business partners were on cloud nine as they watched their dream become a reality. Old Armor Beer Company was open for business and people packed the taproom to support downtown Kannapolis’ first brewery. The military-themed brewery first opened its doors in December of 2019.
“It was surreal to see this place packed,” said Perrine, who is the head brewer.
Then, the pandemic hit.
“We had such a good new thriving business,” said Lingafelt.
The two will tell you in true military fashion they knew they had to get creative and navigate the situation. Like so many small businesses they went from thriving to surviving.
“We have had to adjust, adapt and overcome with to-go orders and deliveries,” Lingafelt said.
He was sitting on the couch one morning and an idea came to him.
“What we were thinking just like war bonds, let’s sell beer bonds for a greater value to the customers and they can bring it in later and it will help us now,” said Lingafelt.
The beer bonds provided a bump to sales but securing a PPP loan from the government helped in a big way. The loan helps keep 20 employees on the payroll for two and a half months.
“Our employees are our family. You work with them every day and when we got that we were able to keep our staff,” said Perrine.
They know what it is like to be on the frontlines. Lingafelt served with the Marines and Perrine with the Army. They both deployed to Afghanistan and met in business school in California. Years later they discovered they were on the same flight back to the states from a deployment.
Their love for this country and those who serve runs deep.
“We are going to do whatever we can to help those serving,” said Perrine.
Through all of this, they are giving back. They are making hand sanitizer for local first responders and delivering it. Customers are also invited to “pay it forward” too and buy a beer for someone who serves either in the military or with a local agency. CLICK HERE to help.
The state of North Carolina doesn’t allow the company to give discounts on alcohol so the pay it forward board is another military workaround the rules. Now, they have added this feature online making it even easier for people to show their appreciation.
“When we open back up, the firefighters or police or whoever is putting their lives at risk can come in and enjoy a beer,” said Perrine.
It will likely be some time before the taproom is packed like it was but these veterans know they’ll get through this challenging mission too, one pint of freedom at a time.
“The people of Kannapolis have been amazing,” said Lingafelt. Some of them, will come in and buy beer even though they don’t really need it.
The taproom team has done almost everything it can to prepare for the day when people come back inside to take a seat. They plan to take some of the tables and chairs out and add more outdoor seating.