Pete and Lynn Anderson, owners of Pareidolia Brewing Company, are proof that it's never too late to act on a dream. Originally from New Jersey and Wisconsin, Pete and Lynn met and married while living California. After 20 years out west, they moved to Indian River County in 2004 to be closer to family. From 2004 to 2014, Pete and Lynn both worked for the Indian River School District. Pete was an elementary school teacher and Lynn was an Executive Assistant for the School District. Pete and Lynn's love of craft beer goes back to 1993, but as Pete explained, after 20 years of dreaming about owning a brewery, things got real in January of 2014.
"In addition to California, we also lived in Oregon and Washington," Pete said. "Craft beer culture out there is huge. We started home-brewing, visiting breweries and just fell in love with the whole scene. One night in January, after we moved to Florida, we were sitting on our back porch having a beer and just decided that, after 20 years of talking about it and dreaming about it, the time was right. There were no breweries in Sebastian, so we figured if we're going to do it, why not be the first."
Prior to opening their doors in September of 2014, Pete and Lynn had several early hurdles to overcome, including financing the venture and securing an ideal location. As Pete explained, the latter was perhaps the most challenging.
"To secure the financing, we secured some family loans and cashed in some retirement investments," he said. "However, the biggest challenge was where to put the brew pub. Location is crucial, but we also had a very limited budget. Sebastian is small, so finding commercial real estate that would sustain what we wanted to do was tricky. We ended up finding a unit in a retail plaza that was vacant for 10 years prior. The building itself had bad visibility, but the location was good. Next, we had to get the city to approve an industry that did not exist. As the first brewery in town, we had to convince the city, city code enforcement, city planners and others that it could be done in a small strip mall. Once we squared that away, signed the lease and purchased the equipment, the clock was ticking. It was stressful bringing everything together and opening our doors before we ran out of resources. Fortunately, we did so in record time. From inception to launch it took us nine months."
For the first year of operation, both Pete and Lynn kept their day jobs with the School District. By day they taught and by night they brewed beer. The second year, Pete took a leave of absence, which guaranteed him a job if he returned within a year. Needless to say, Pete never exercised that guarantee. By year three, Lynn left her job to go full-time with the brewery. The decision made sense, but as Pete explained, it was still nerve racking.
"At some point, you have to make that leap," he said. "We were outgrowing our initial location. We were already out scouting for a bigger location. With strong projected sales, both wholesale and retail, we knew we would need a bigger location. The move to a bigger location would increase production, exposure and ultimately our revenue. This would require more time and energy on our part."
Today, Pareidolia Brewing serves up its porters, lagers and best selling New England Style IPA in an old renovated post office building steps from the beautiful Indian River. In addition to award-winning craft beer, they also have a menu full of unique pub grub including craft beer cheese dip, giant soft pretzels and a variety of hot-pressed Panini sandwiches. Outside of the brewery, you can find Pete and Lynn's beers at various bars and restaurants along the Space and Treasure Coasts. As Pete pointed out, Pareidolia is not a production brewery. They're a boutique brewery. As such, they work with their distributor to only feature their beers where people appreciate small batch craft beer.
"We're still dialing in our recipes to be featured as draft only," he said. "At some point in 2019, we'll likely try canning our beers, even if it's just to sell in-house. If people want our beer in cans sooner, we'll rise up to meet that demand. Regardless of when we decide to can, we'll make use of a mobile canning service. They literally pull up, attach to your fermenters and fill your cans. When they're done, you have 100 cases sitting on your loading dock. It's much more cost effective than having your own canning line which are fickle and notorious for breaking down."
What advice does Pete have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "If you really want to do something and you're passionate about it, you'll make it work," he said. "You'll have to give up a lot in the short term, but in the long-term, you'll gain a true sense of personal satisfaction. That's the most important thing in a job. If you're not passionate about it and it doesn't give you personal satisfaction, it will feel like a job. In terms of breweries, you can tell the difference between a business brewery and a passionate brewery right when you walk in the door. If you're just doing it for the money, your personal satisfaction will not carry you through the tough times. I have friends that are also self employed and they all tell me that eventually you'll think of it as just a job. So far, that hasn't been the case. Sure there are days I have to go in a lot and work long hours, but I never have a sense of drudgery. I love this industry and I love making beer. We make something that people celebrate with and share at special occasions. It's amazing to be part of that. My last piece of advice is to risk whatever it takes. If it doesn't work, at least you gave it a shot. The worst thing is to never try and to live wondering 'what if'."