Brown Iron Brewhouse in Royal Oak grabs small business award – The Daily Tribune

Things looked good when Brown Iron Brewhouse owner Patti Eisenbraun expanded her business to a second location in Royal Oak at Woodward Corners at 13 Mile Road and Woodward Avenue in 2020, but survive-or-die challenges soon arrived.

“It was so exciting to open in Royal Oak,” said Eisenbran, who started the craft-beer centric smokehouse restaurant in Washington Township with her business partner and chef, Deni Smiljanovski, in 2015. “We opened March 1, 2020 and we did amazing (business) for the first couple weeks.”

The pandemic was getting underway. Two weeks later, the state prohibited all indoor dining.

“Our sales plummeted,” Eisenbraun said. “We went from 130 employees down to 25.”

But she changed gears to adapt and still serve customers.

The Royal Oak restaurant started online ordering with carry outs and offered economical “family pack” meals and delivery service.

“We also did grocery boxes with essentials like toilet paper, fruits and vegetables and tailored our menu down,” Eisenbraun said.

Because the restaurant was so new in Royal Oak, it failed to qualify for many of the support funding grants to help businesses through the rough early days of the pandemic.

Her determination and ingenuity in successfully surviving led to the Small Business Association of Michigan honoring Eisenbraun with its 2022 Spirit of Entrepreneur award recently.

“Patti Eisenbraun and the Brown Iron Brewhouse team continue to show the amazing things that can happen when entrepreneurs put their minds to something,” said SBAM President and CEO Brian Calley in a statement. “Despite the impossible timing and repeated setbacks caused by the pandemic, they were able to continually pivot their business to survive and be successful.”

The Rick Snyder Spirit of Entrepreneurship Award is named in honor of former Gov. Rick Snyder. The award-winning small business must have fewer than 500 employees, be headquartered in Michigan, and have a turnaround that allows it to achieve substantial growth.

Eisenbraun got the award at SBAM’s recent recent annual Leadership Council Summit on Mackinac Island. The award was presented by Snyder and Calley. 

Patti Eisenbraun with SBAM CEO and President Brian Calley, left, and former Gov. Rick Snyder. (SBAM photo)
Patti Eisenbraun with SBAM CEO and President Brian Calley, left, and former Gov. Rick Snyder. (SBAM photo)

Like many restaurant owners, Eisenbraun said it was difficult to find employees after pandemic restrictions were lifted.

“One thing that really saved us was the youth,” she said. “So many high school and college students came and worked with us,” from hostesses to dishwashers

Brown Iron Brewhouse survived because of its earlier success and the Royal Oak and surrounding communities support, she said.

“And the Royal Oak Eats Facebook page really helped get the word out as well,” Eisenbraun said. “They have done so much for restaurants.”