In this series we’ll be chatting with local folks who didn’t grow up in Springfield, but rather relocated here by choice at some point in their lives. We wanted to speak with people who have chosen to make Springfield home without the familiarity of coming up here. We feel like their perspectives will be a great way to see more reasons why this community is a great place to live, work and play!
Jeff Schrag moved to Springfield back in 1995 to operate a daily newspaper called Daily Events, which is still in circulation today. He had been a business owner for many years in several cities, but loved the idea of entering the publishing world and jumped on the opportunity. Since then, Schrag has started a variety of other businesses including a cuff links manufacturer, sports books and of course, Mother’s brewery. We say down with Jeff to find out why he decided to move to the Queen City and what made him fall in love with the community over the past 25 years.
Murney: When did you decide to move to Springfield?
Jeff Schrag: Well, I’m originally from McPherson, Kansas, then moved to Kansas City with a stop in Minnesota in the middle of my Kansas City time. I was looking at a business in Springfield starting ’93. I was unable to get the fund to make a deal with the sellers, but I continued to contact them every 4-6 months, making up some reason to call them. Then we were able to strike a deal in early 1995. I remember very vividly that Heer’s department store was still open when I was coming here to meet them. When I moved here in April of ’95, the Heer’s building had just closed.
M: What was it about Springfield that made you decide to move here rather than another city?
JS: Well, I was purchasing the Daily Events because it was a publication I could afford. I had been to Springfield once or twice previously. As a kid, we went to Branson. To Silver Dollar City and to see various things. And then my parents had invested in real estate in Branson in ’88 or ’89, before the 60 minutes peace in Branson, where someone said “Will the last person to leave Nashville for Branson please turn the light out.” Very prophetic.
M: What was your first impression of Springfield upon arriving here?
JS: I was really focused on my work. Fortunately, the business I bought was in downtown Springfield. Now in those days, there was still a meter maid who drove a three wheeled cart and marked tires and wrote tickets. But when the meter maid wasn’t working at night, you could really park anywhere. There was no noise, no activity, very few places to go, but I was very fortunate to be at the ground floor of the revitalization of downtown Springfield.
M: What made you want to stay here and start a business like Mother’s?
JS: I made friends here very quickly. And I was involved in lots of board and groups in downtown Springfield. I actually had the opportunity to move to Oregon to get in on the ground floor of a new company out there and I just wasn’t sure if I’d like it as much as I like Springfield. Being part of the revitalization here as well made me really want to do something downtown.
M: Have you always had a passion for breweries?
JS: I’ve always had a passion for alcohol. Beer has been a part of that. I’d fantasize at different times in my life about what life would be like if I had a brewery or if I had a distillery or if I had a winery, but it always goes back to beer becuase that’s my roots. I was soul searching for a business (when starting Mother’s). I felt like I was at an intersection of my life of being able to do something right from the beginning, but also to have enough capital to be able to get into something of my choosing, while still being young enough to risk everything I had one more time.
M: How do you feel the community embraced Mother’s?
JS: Well, that was pretty amazing. It was beyond my expectations. Our timing was lucky, everything came together pretty well and has been pretty amazing. I look back and I usually tear up when I say this. We didn’t necessarily have sample liquid to pass around (to vendors). And because of the demand, we had to figure out a way to get people our liquid in a organized manner. So, we developed a little formula which was if you would take 3 handles or 4 handles, then we’d put you on the first day. And if you were going to take fewer than that, it might take a us a few days to get you hooked up. 15 places took 3 handles or more. I mean, you could not do that today…I don’t know, maybe someone has done that somewhere, but that’s a lot of faith, and they couldn’t try the liquid.
JS: We rented a van and Curtis, our intern from Missouri State sacrificed drinking that day and we started about 4:00 and we went to all those 15 places and had a beer, which is a feat in itself, ending up at Patton Alley Pub, which is still today our number one account, at the stroke of midnight.
M: What’s next for Mother’s?
JS: Well, it’s our summer season and our backyard gets full when the weather gets good. We have all kinds of leagues, bocce ball leagues, kickball leagues, lots of different stuff like that. It’s really fun. We do a couple of outdoor music festivals a year. We always have new beers coming out. There are new beers in the tasting room that you can only get here (at Mother’s Brewery). And then the question of where do we go next? We’ve been in St. Louis for about three months and that’s been really good for us. Where do we go next? We’re not certain. We’re constantly looking at places and trying to judge them one against the other. We’re fortunate to have the opportunity to go to new places.
M: What are your overall goals for Mother’s
JS: We don’t have any desire to go wide to serve throughout the United States, we’d like to stay focused on the Midwest and focused on areas in which Springfield is relevant. So, for us it’s a pretty small notion of what we can do. How far that goes, what ‘smallest’ will end up meaning, I don’t know. We just kind of take that on a case-by-case basis. We just go market by market and see what’s gonna work for us.
M: So no plans to change the location of your HQ?
JS: (laughs) No plans to change the HQ.