Having a vision and the courage to stick with it is something O’Reilly appreciates in other businesses, not to mention breweries. “I really love Steel Toe. I identify strongly with the way they do their business. Jason [Schoneman, owner] does a great job across the board, with consistency and level of quality. Their culture is to just get in there, work hard and [trust that] the right people are going to like what [they] do.” O’Reilly proudly mentions that Steel Toe’s Size 7, a beer that gets no boost from advertising, has been Republic’s best-selling beer three years running.
“Fair State is on a good track, too,” he continues. “I know they’re doing what they want to be doing instead of watching what everyone else is doing. So many breweries look at the competition and think, ‘We need an IPA. Everyone’s doing an IPA.’”
He also credits Sisyphus and Dangerous Man for starting small and making people come to them. “They’re not out there trying to get 50 tap lines at bars,” which he equates to going macro. “You have to go there to drink it. Plus, there’s always a good mix, always something new, and it’s really good stuff. It’s super noble. I wish more breweries would do it that way.”
Because craft beer drinkers are chasing novelty these days, O’Reilly is concerned that many brewers rush their beer to market before they’ve crafted a quality product. “Integrity and vision are more important than selling the most beer,” he says. “If you’re in it for the long haul, you should have the patience to make something excellent and manage your growth plan.”
The long haul is constantly on O’Reilly’s mind. It’s why he hired a director of operations last year to handle a share of the day-to-day tasks. He wants to spend more time at home with his family, and he wants to empower his employees to do a good job while he’s away. “If it falls apart the minute I walk out the door, then I am doing them a disservice,” O’Reilly says.
When he’s not at work, O’Reilly makes his health a priority. He practices yoga three days a week, rides his bike and likes to run along the Mississippi River. Exercise has helped him become more patient, happy, and calm, he says.
Music also occupies a special place in O’Reilly’s life. A guitar player and singer since his college days, he’s looking forward to taking the stage with friends and co-workers from Republic at the pub’s fourth anniversary party at The Cedar on May 18th.
He doesn’t play as much as he used to, O’Reilly says with his eyes on the Daisy Dillman Band, watching the 2006 inductees to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame work through the signature sweet and high harmonies that put them on the Billboard charts in the late 70s. “I love playing my songs for people and making them want to clap and dance, but something had to give when the business started growing.”
“Most of my creative energy goes toward the restaurants,” O’Reilly says. He’s been reading up on cider, too, as a hobby, and he expects to see real growth in the coming years. Accordingly, Republic has dedicated 16 tap lines just to cider. “There’s an art to it,” he says. “The more I learn, the more I like it.”
That’s one thing you can count on: after more than 10 years, four restaurants, and a food truck, O’Reilly will continue to learn, grow and perfect his craft as a modern restaurateur.
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