Jim Downing once worked as a grip on the set of movies and television shows in Los Angeles. After the birth of his daughter, his family decided to return to central Ohio. His wife is a Reynoldsburg native and he went to school in Columbus. Originally from Beavercreek, a Dayton suburb, he attended Ohio State University and studied broadcast communications and cinematography.
After working in the broadcasting field for a number of years, he switched gears and turned a hobby into a business. Downing, who said a friend turned him on to home brewing beer, opened Buckeye BrewCraft at 33 N. State St. in Uptown Westerville five months ago.
He said business has been going well and the holiday season proved especially fruitful.
"I had a tremendous Christmas season. I've only been open five months and I'm almost in the black."
He said he's happy with the location in Westerville's historic business district.
"There's a tremendous feeling of community here. I feel very fortunate to be in Westerville. It's proved to be a really good location," he said.
Downing also said in addition to drawing many central Ohioans, store visitors have been coming from areas a little outside of central Ohio, too. "I've had people come from Mansfield, Newark and Lancaster," he said. "One couple who took my home brewing class were from an hour away."
Since the store has been open, he has been building it up and plans to add more stock and offer more classes and eventually start a beer club and a wine club. Downing said clubs already exist, but his customers are telling him they would like their own club. He sponsored a Holiday Ale Contest, allowing customers to compete for the best holiday brew. More are in the offing.
"Another contest is starting soon. Customers are asking for more of that. I aim to give people a lot more than just grains," Downing said.
Although Downing said most of his business is geared toward beer brewers, he also sells winemaking supplies and Sodastream products. He said his winemaking supplies have been selling more briskly since customers learned that he sold the products. "Once winemakers figured out I was here and selling the products, wine has taken off."
In addition to selling kits, he sells hops, bottles, caps, wood chips, flavorings and various grains by the pound. Most of the hops and malts he sells are from LD Carson in Kent. Buckeye BrewCraft also features made in Ohio beer and wine-related products.
"A guy who's a customer is a furniture maker and he makes these growler carriers. They're made from reclaimed cherry. Another is a shop teacher and he makes wine bottle and growler carriers. We also sell bottle openers made from Columbus Barrel Co. products," he said.
Downing said he also answers lots of questions and if he doesn't know the answer, he finds out.
"If someone calls and asks a question that I don't know the answer to, then I find out and call them back. Usually, it's the same day," he noted.
Downing offers classes on how the homebrewing beer kits that he sells work.
"First-timers will always use a kit when they start brewing," Downing said. He uses one of the same homebrewing kits he sells in his demonstration.
The classes take approximately two hours and the schedule is listed on buckeye brewcraft.com and the Facebook page facebook.com/ BuckeyeBrewcraft.
More than two dozen types of beer kits, ranging in price from $29.50 to $46.50, fill the shelves in the beer supplies area.
Downing accepts around six people maximum to each of the classes on introductory beer homebrewing. He said times for the classes vary since they are scheduled around the business and his family.
"Family does come first for me no matter what," Downing said.