My Library and Courses
Last Update: Thursday July 2, 2020

Key Idea: Do Research

Bill Sugars did national research before he put his plan together for a major expansion.   More...

Key Question:


Do your homework.

Q: What did Bill's research reveal?

A: There was no handcrafted beer in Libertyville, Illinois; 28,000 cars drive by Mickey Finn's every day; and, brew pubs have a much higher success rate than do restaurants. By actually visiting these places, he got a "feel" for the business from many points of view. He talked to brew pub owners and customers, and also sampled dozens of handcrafted beers. In addition, he made notes on square footage, hours of operation, decor, furniture, floor surfaces, wall coverings and signage. He learned about how to attract and hire great people and about how beer is made -- all from people who are already doing it.

Q: Did Pat Elmquist do research before he bought Mickey Finn's?

A: Not that we know of. He was simply a customer who saw that the place was always full. He wanted a change from corporate life and figured he could keep Mickey Finn's as successful in the future as it had been in the past.

Q: Why did Bill have to spend 2 years and write a business plan while Pat bought Mickey Finn's six weeks after he started thinking about it?

A: Bill was proposing a huge change in Mickey Finn's while Pat took over an existing business and possibly didn't need a bank loan. If the original owner had carried the financing, Pat could have sealed the deal on a handshake. Bill wanted to buy the property adjacent to Mickey Finn's, knock out a wall, add a building and install the equipment necessary to make the handcrafted beer. He also wanted to enlarge the kitchen. Bill had to convince Pat and a banker that expanding Mickey Finn's would pay off for everyone.

Think about it

Have you ever put your goals and plans in writing? Have you ever had to convince others to invest in your business or to make you a loan? Have you ever tried to recruit an experienced person who wanted to see your business plan?

Clip from: Mickey Finn

It is hard to imagine at one time this downtown was bleak.

Libertyville, Illinois: Discover how two men changed the face and the fortunes of a town. Pat Elmquest and Bill Sugars invested in their local community when no one else would. They dared to dream an impossible dream. The old downtown was virtually abandoned -- over 60% vacancy -- with pawn shops and the like.  Pat had bought a little pub; then with a $2 million loan, they expanded to make a brewery and restaurant... and the old downtown transformation was underway.

They were true pioneers ...the visionaries.  Today, Libertyville is an award-winning historic business district.

Go to all the Key Ideas and Video...
Go to a homepage for this episode...

Mickey Finn's Brewery

Brian Grano, Today's Owner & CEO

Founders: Pat Elmquest & Bill Sugars
412 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Libertyville, IL 60048

Visit our web site:

Office: 8473626688

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1990

Do Research

HATTIE: (Voiceover) Pat was happy with the pub. Then Bill came along with ideas for expansion.

BILL SUGARS (Mickey Finn's): Pat's reputation in the community with Mickey Finn's was one of excellent burgers, chicken sandwiches, pita bread sandwiches, wings and Mexican food. The problem with this place--and you can see this building--this was it. It seated 62 people; it was always full. People would walk in, turn around and walk out. So in doing my market research, Libertyville actually came out to be the third-best market I looked at, behind Seattle and the Bay Area, and I didn't want to go back to those large, metropolitan areas.

HATTIE: In the research, how did you know this was the third-best place? What questions were you asking?

BILL: Well, I did a demographic profile of 13 markets dealing with income; industry, corporate and private; education; beer consumption, etc. I had contacted all of the economic development corporations that were in those communities, along with the chambers of commerce, and Libertyville actually came out to be the third-best market I looked at because it had, and may still have, the highest disposable income of any county in the United States--that's Lake County--because of the corporations that are in this area.

So I was driving down Milwaukee Avenue, and I'm thinking, `OK, I've got 13 markets, three that look really good. Libertyville is third.' I'm driving across, I see the park, look across the street and I see Mickey Finn's, I see the empty lot next door and I say, `Whew, why go someplace where nobody knows me and try and sell something?' Can you imagine walking in a restaurant that's successful and telling somebody who doesn't even know me from Adam, `I want you to go into really big debt with me, and I want to change the whole focus of your restaurant.' And I said, `Well, the chances of me going out West and finding somebody willing to do that is real slim.'

I knew Pat. We were casual friends. And I came in one day, after I finished my business plan and marketing plan, and said, `Pat,' I said, `I have an idea.' I said, `You always have a problem because you can't serve all your customers, OK? So what if we bought the land next door, build a brew pub, a microbrewery, expand the restaurant, and open this place up to all the community people that want to come in here?'

PAT: He said, `I have an idea. Would you have a few minutes someday?' So we picked a time. He came in, and we talked for an hour or so. And I knew nothing about the microbrew market or the brew-pub market.

BILL: So we went and visited a few in the area.

PAT: And the more I read and the more I talked to him and the more we discussed the demographics here, it started to make sense.

BILL: And then we went to Colorado and visited all the brew pubs that were starting up there.

HATTIE: So I know what you were doing. You were getting him fired up.

BILL: Absolutely, and it worked.

PAT: We went to 10 brew pubs. After about the third one, I knew this was it; `Let's go for it.' So we came back and I said, `If we can get the lot next door, let's do it.' So we negotiated for the lot, and the rest is history. We mortgaged everything we had. I got a little bit of private money from my family.


Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!