Some couples plan for a special trip, a memorable anniversary or date night.
For Zach and Chris Tracy, their dream is Juniper.
The brew pub, coffee shop and restaurant in downtown Bowling Green will open later this winter.
“Every step that we’ve taken along the way has kind of built up to owning our own business,” said Chris, who works full time in banking. “Being an entrepreneur is just embedded in us.
“We’re curious. We’re resilient. It’s just in our blood.”
The name of their endeavour has special meaning.
They choose the name Juniper because they like the outdoors so much as a family, Zach said. They picked the name after the juniper tree, which thrives out West in the harshest of conditions because of the tree’s extensive root system.
The Tracys thought that is what they are trying to do, not only with their family but with the business and relating to the community.
Zach has always been fond of beer and when he learned how to make it, he wanted to take it to the next level.
“It initially started on a whim. Obviously, I’ve always enjoyed beer in general and hanging out with my friends and having a beer,” Zach said. “But it all started with my mom. My mom re-gifted a beer kit that was given to her.”
It sat in the garage a couple of years before he went back to it.
“The minute I started that process, I started to understand all of the different science that is involved,” said Zach, who was a chemistry teacher. “I could see how much control science had in the brewing process.
“From that moment I was hooked. I couldn’t read enough books. I couldn’t brew enough batches of beer. I couldn’t talk to enough people.”
He focused on honing his skills and gaining as much knowledge as he could about the process. He’s been brewing for 15 years and went through the American Brewers Guild.
“That’s one of several brewing programs in the country that’s offered,” he said.
“Internships” followed, including Fat Head’s and Market Garden Brewery.
There are big plans for Juniper, but they will be small at first.
“We have COVID now, and our post-COVID dreams,” Chris said.
First to open will be the coffee shop.
Chris said that as community members and friends began to hear about Juniper, they approached the couple about being open at all hours, not just after 4 p.m. Juniper could be a downtown destination.
“Now we have a full-blown coffee bar with baristas,” she said.
Juniper will also offer a cafe menu, with lunch/brunch and grab-and-go items.
The next phase will be to open some taps, featuring some of Zach’s brews, along with offering wine. Curbside and pickup service will be available.
“The technology and mechanically, we’re still finessing that,” Chris said.
Their eventual food offerings will be high-end American bar food.
“We want to push. We want to put our own twist on popular items,” Zach said. “We want to push the envelope in Bowling Green.
“We want to have fun with the food, too.”
Joel Perez is the chef at Juniper.
The Tracys have twins, who are 8, and a 9-year-old. In July, they moved to Bowling Green, where Zach was born and raised. Chris is from the Canton area. They met while students at Bowling Green State University.
They had lived in Cleveland for 13 years.
“Cleveland is really where it all started. That’s where we learned about beer,” Chris said. “It was kind of a cool time to be in Cleveland because we got to witness the renaissance of that town.
“It had a lot to do with big-name chefs coming in and breweries being built. It was really neat to witness all of that.”
As their kids got older, they decided it was time to be closer to family.
“Since the moment we made the choice to do this, it’s kind of like the stars aligned for us — except for the pandemic,” Chris said.
Juniper is located in a prime spot, the former Panera in the heart of downtown.
“What a dream space,” she said of the over 7,000-square-foot area.
The planned hours are 7 a.m.-10 p.m., until the state curfew ends.
(Sentinel-Tribune multi-media journalist J.D. Pooley did the interviews for this story.)