Redefining Business Category: Kevin Brennan, An Awesome Human
The Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis houses a great deal of retail entrepreneurial drive. Almost every kind of ethnic dish (from burgers to grasshopper tacos) is available. And this kind of diversity reflects the neighborhood — the entire panoply of race and socioeconomic status coexist.
It is from this region that Brennan’s — a constantly evolving space that defies convenient business category — was born in 2003. At the time, the location was a wine and spirits retailer. But the simple offering soon evolved in organic and nonlinear ways.
I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with Kevin Brennan to pen a piece for the “Let’s Come Together” issue of Alive Magazine. What I observed was this: the decision-making scheme that has defined the business direction for Brennan’s reflects both the ethics of the neighborhood as well as Kevin’s creative drive to deliver the most unique experiences to his customers (almost more fittingly, his audience).
Today, Brennan’s is a cigar club, event space, speakeasy, cigar manufacturer, bar, pop-up high-end restaurant, co-working space and ping-pong enthusiast daydream. Kevin, however, calls it a “neighborhood spot.” I quote him in the Alive article:
“I want to get the most interesting people in the space, and I want them to come back and be surprised.I remember reading the Starbuck’s CEO’s book, ‘Onward,’ and he talked about creating a third place. People have home, and they have work. He talked about the importance of a third place — Starbucks. I see what we are doing with Brennan’s as creating a fourth place — it is all those places.”
The purpose of Brennan’s is to illicit an emotional, human response. It is not to be the best-known whiskey bar or most-comfortable co-working space. It’s a place where you can go and be human — just as you are. And the success of a human model is evidenced in 13 years of success and increased notoriety.
All photos by the inscrutable Attilio D’Agostino.