Michael Buss of North Shore Brewing Supply

Michael Buss, owner of North Shore Brewing Supply, says customer service sets his shop apart from other brew stores. (Rachael Poll / December 9, 2013)

Name: Michael Buss

Age: 37

Hometown: Highland Park

Name of business: North Shore Brewing Supply

Describe what you sell: We offer all of the ingredients and equipment people need to make their own beer or wine at home. This includes but is not limited to: hops, grain, yeast, pre-packed kits for both wine and beer-making, kettles, fermenters, turkey fryer-type cookers and hundreds of other ingredients and hardware. Additionally, we offer classes for beginning enthusiasts to the more advanced. Our classes are hands-on and you get to take home your own creation after it has fermented. We currently offer classes for both beer and hard cider making, and plan to roll out wine classes in coming months.

What sets you apart from similar businesses? Our No. 1 focus is customer service. This shines through in not just our attention to the retail customer but especially in our classes. We are willing to custom-design a class for any person or group, whether it be to make a particular style of beer (stout, IPA, etc.) or accommodate any party — either in our store or at a client's home.

What made you want to open this type of store? I have been making my own beer at home for nearly 20 years, and I know of many people in the area who are already involved in the hobby or are incredibly interested in learning more about this booming craft. The thought of opening a store of this nature made sense since the majority of my professional career has been nearly equally split between the food and beverage service industry and teaching; and this seemed to be a perfect marriage of both.

Why did you decide to open your business in Highland Park? As a resident of Highland Park, I knew there were a large number of people already active in this hobby on the North Shore. Additionally, the city has been incredibly supportive of this venture and have worked with me every step of the way to ensure we could make this work here, and so far the reception has been phenomenal.

Why did you pick this specific location? We chose this spot because it really seemed to fit with our business model. We are not the type of business that necessarily needs a lot of foot traffic as the people who are into this hobby will find us. That said, we may well be one of the hardest businesses to find in Highland Park. I like to tell people we are a hidden gem.

What obstacles did you find when you started? Starting a retail store definitely held a lot of surprises for us, but I am very fortunate to have an incredibly talented wife who was able to handle most of the accounting and inventory hiccups we had to work through.

Did you make use of any programs or incentives offered by an organization or local government? I worked pretty closely with SCORE — the nonprofit that helps small businesses with a variety of programs — to get my business off the ground and still work with them when needed. I still have a mentor with them who I can call right now to bounce ideas around or get advice from.

If you could offer local officials one piece of advice to make their town more attractive to entrepreneurs, what would it be? There has been a lot made of all of the businesses who have had to close shop in the downtown area. Any type of incentives that could be given to business or building owners to try and help keep rents from getting too outrageous would be helpful.

What mistakes did you make? I would say I underestimated the amount of time it would take to get everything in order before we would be able to open our doors and really get down to being able to do what I love — making and talking about great craft beer.

What did you do right? I try to treat all of my customers and business contacts the same way I would like to be treated. To me good service is what it all comes down to. In these first couple of months, it has brought me an immense amount of joy when people walk in and tell us how happy they are that we are here. It is my goal to do all I can and be sure to have a staff that is ready to do anything we can to ensure a terrific experience at NSBS.

What advice would you give to someone else looking to open a business in Highland Park? Pay attention to that customer service. The Highland Park and North Shore customer expect high-end products and you should provide these for them, but you must also have high-end, exceptional customer service. They are the greatest customers you can hope for.

What are your hours/address/phone number/website? Monday to Wednesday: 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.; Thursday and Friday: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.; 1480 Old Deerfield Road, Suite 15, Highland Park; 847-831-0570; http://www.northshorebrewingsupply.com

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