Boom Town to Brewery
Basic City once sat at the crossroads of two railroads and the coming industrial boom. Founded in 1890, the town experienced a three-year rally of manufacturing investments in the “basic” process of turning pig iron into steal. For its moment, prior to a national depression beginning in 1893 and before its merger with Waynesboro, Basic City was the larger of the two adjacent towns. The City of Waynesboro sat on one side of the river and remained dry, while Basic City was the place to buy a beer.
Bart Lanman has not forgotten. He is unabashed in his love for the industrial and for what he imagines was the Basic City culture. “It’s still here, it’s still a point of pride,” he says. “It’s still our skyline and it’s still our jobs.” Even as a lot has changed, for Bart part of the allure lies in what remains and what can grow from the buildings and stories that point to moments past. For him, the shine of state-of-the-art brewing equipment glows best under the saw-tooth skylights of an older industrial age.
As a co-founder of Basic City Beer Co., Bart’s love of history shines through all around him: The font for the Basic City Brewing logo is taken from the original land deed for Basic City Mining Company. Lithia Springs, the original water supply that attracted DuPont, is remembered as a namesake for a double IPA. Asked about industrial buildings currently sitting empty in town, he says “Lots of buildings here are still working through what they’re going to be when they grow up. It’s a great aesthetic. It’s a palate for the future.”
A Family Affair
Bart is not alone in his combined passion for beer and history. His fellow co-founders are his two brothers, Chris (the youngest) and Joe (“by trade a minister, by practice a beer drinker”). His wife Chandler books the live music events for the brewery along with handling the accounting, and together they are raising three daughters to whom Bart hopes to one day leave the beer business. Ranging in age from eight to 14, all three have grown up in Waynesboro, following the family’s move here 17 years ago.
Their collective experience of Waynesboro has evolved significantly since opening their doors and booking live music acts. “When we started advertising for bands, no one knew where Waynesboro was — the tumbleweed town,” says Bart. “People didn’t stop here, other than for the interstate. Now folks from Norfolk, Richmond, Charlottesville walk in and say ‘this is Waynesboro?!'”
Along with fellow entrepreneurs like Blue Ridge Bucha, whom Bart has worked hard to help attract, Basic City Beer Co. sees an emerging district forming in which anchor businesses are bringing back a Basic City vibrancy. “The Basic City culture is about going back to fundamentals, to simplify. That is our foundation.”
Advice to Fellow Entrepreneurs
Bart begins his advice to fellow entrepreneurs with a nod to flexibility and adaptation. “We aren’t fortune tellers,” he says. “Building projections is a great way to find how much you are off and when to remap. It’s about paying attention and rearranging along the way.” For Basic City Beer Co.’s first year, this meant balancing unexpected successes in their tap room with the realities of more gradual growth in distribution channels. By year two, it meant discovering that the delayed growth in distribution was suddenly ready to surge. “Have a plan,” says Bart. “But be able to rearrange without stress.”
“You never know who has the advice you need, who has the story that will change your life,” he adds. Basic City Beer Co.’s investors came almost entirely from the Waynesboro and Staunton region, a fact that still encourages and enlivens Bart. “We had no idea who we were looking for, and it was a surprise who could see the vision and come through. Be open, and be aware.”
Most of all, he’s an advocate of diversity and communication across subcultures, a skill that’s both crucial to Basic City Beer Co.’s success and also perhaps one facilitated by its taps. “We have the suits talking to the construction workers in our tap room,” he says. “I have friends who would never have been in my clique, but we share a town. This is a city of 20,000 and we need everybody. Together, everyone gets better at building bridges.”
To Learn More about Basic City Beer Co., check out their full website at www.basiccitybeer.com. To read more about the entrepreneurs who are building Waynesboro’s local economy, read through our many small business profiles at www.growwaynesboro.com/meet-them