Local homebuilder manufactures new business brewing beer and smoking meats in downtown
For Josh Edwards, the thrill comes in the process.
The process of manufacturing something, he says, is what excites him. There's a joy that comes in the process of seeing a new home come together, a raw cut of meet turning into succulent barbecue, or grains boiling and fermenting into his latest brew.
For the past 17 years, the lifelong Lee's Summit resident has been building a successful home-building business — Legacy Custom Homes. But over the past several months he's busied himself with the opening of a business featuring his other passions. The new business, Smoke Brewing Co., features Lee's Summit's latest micro-brewery and high-end barbecue gastro pub.
"I love figuring out how things come together," Edwards said. "It's definitely the process that hooks me. With construction, I know how things come together to build something and its the same with making barbecue or brewing beer. Definitely with beer. For me, this project is really all about the beer."
A home brewer and barbecue competitor for the past several years, Edwards eventually found himself searching for a means to scale his brewing and enter the world of micro-brewers. Initially, he began his search thinking only of finding an industrial space suited for brewing. But his criteria quickly changed.
"I never really wanted to do a restaurant," he said. "I love the restaurant business, it just wasn't what I wanted at the time. The restaurant idea really came from my wife. She's the one who came up with the idea and pushed for it as way to attract and keep customers."
The other factor in his decision to add a restaurant to his business plan came from a discussion with architect, Guy Gronberg. When Gronberg presented Edwards with the downtown Lee's Summit space at 209 SE Main Street, he quickly realized this was the area he wanted to place his new business.
Once he, along with his father and partner, Jeff Edwards, decided on the downtown location, the discussion turned to how best to shape the business for this ideal space. His wife, Lanni's, idea quickly took hold and the barbecue/brew pub started to take shape.
"I'm proud of what we're doing with the restaurant side of things," Edwards said. "It's really good food and the space has turned out great. The restaurant is definitely the face of our business and at the forefront of everything we do. But its also a means to an end. This is about brewing and getting our beer out to as many people as we can."
After opening its doors last week, the plan is for the restaurant to have 12 of its own beers on tap within the next six weeks. Eventually, Edwards said, the business will feature only beer brewed in house. And further down the road, the owner says he will explore distribution avenues as he looks to expand his reach.
Back on the restaurant side, Edwards recruited a staff from some of the area's top kitchens. His executive chef, Dan Patterson, came from The Rieger in downtown Kansas City while his two assistant chefs were recruited out of two other Kansas City icons, Lydia's and The American.
"The funny story about Dan is he told me "no" twice," Edwards said. "The third time I called him I was actually just asking him for names of friends or anyone else he might recommend. When he answered the phone, I jokingly asked 'So, are you going to come work for me now?'"
It turned out Patterson did want to come work for him and the two quickly got to work constructing a barbecue menu designed to go hand-in-hand with beer produced on site. The goal, he says, is to add some flair to what he calls "well cooked peasant food."
The goal, along with Patterson, is to offer simple and high-quality dishes designed to go hand-in-hand with their brews. The crew meets each week to discuss the menu, as well as the beer. The purpose of the meeting is to not only check on what's hitting with customers, but to also plan ahead with their next brew and how the menu will evolve to complement their beer. Once Smoke has 12 of their brews on tap, Edwards plans on having a special night where he will let Patterson and his team create a complete dinner, setting all courses to pair with the house brews.
The one caveat to Edwards claim of simple peasant food, may come in the form of what he calls his favorite item on the new menu — chicken fried bacon.
"It's gluttonous, but it's also just ridiculously good," he said. "I can't help myself it is so good. I really liking what we're doing here. We want to add a fine dining feel to what is in reality very simple food. Everything we do is made in house. Well, everything but the fries. That's the only thing we don't do fresh. that was a tough decision for us, but it was made in an effort to keep things efficient in our kitchen. We want to offer our customer's really good and simple food. Meals that let the meat speak for itself."
Making Smoke a part of the community is an important component to Edwards' plan. The atmosphere around Downtown, as well as the opportunity to work alongside other entrepreneurs and small business owners played a major role in his decision to choose the Main Street location.
"I can't wait to start doing some fun things with some of the other businesses in downtown," he said. "One of things we're looking at doing is partnering with the Cigar Room (108 SE Third Street) and planning a cigar dinner where we pair our food and brew with some of the cigars from that local business. We're a local business, and we want to work with and support other local businesses. We'll come up with a few other things like that to partner with more businesses around here."
Taking note of Edwards' investment in Lee's Summit's downtown district, as well as his desire to develop partnerships among business owners, is Downtown Lee's Summit Main Street executive director Donnie Rodgers.
"Smoke Brewing Company was truly a labor of love by the Edwards family and we are so lucky to have families like theirs dedicated to making our downtown one of the best," Rodgers said. "Their investment back into the heart of our community should be celebrated."
Smoke Brewing Company is located at 209 SE Main Street in Lee's Summit. The restaurant and micro-brewery is open daily from 3 - 11 p.m. Stay connected to Smoke Brewing through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.