behind-the-storefront:-vermilion-river-beer-company,-owned-by-rob-black,-peter-blackmon,-and-michael-jorgenson

Behind The Storefront: Vermilion River Beer Company, Owned By Rob Black, Peter Blackmon, And Michael Jorgenson

Vermilion River Beer Company, the bar located at 103 N. Vermilion, was an idea born out of opportunity. The building is owned by Peter Blackmon. He purchased the building with the intention of leasing property in 2001. Over the years, he struggled to find solid, long-term tenants. In conversation with his longtime friend and partner in shenanigans, Rob Black, they tossed around the potential of a bar to work in the space. Over time, the idea of a bar at 103 N. Vermilion matured and in 2017, the original idea creators joined current partner Michael Jorgeson and two other partners to bring VRBC to life.

Pete describes the formation of Vermilion River Beer Company as a slow progression. “You know, we never set out with the thought that ‘wouldn’t it be cool to own a bar.’ Those early conversations with Rob were more centered around ‘this could be a logical opportunity for this space given the progression of Downtown Danville and the events that were being held in Temple Plaza.” He says that’s really when they started exploring the opportunity.

The partners were intentional about creating a physical atmosphere that honors the history of the building. They began work in 2017 and did as much work themselves as was allowed. And much like the idea, the space took considerable time to come to fruition. Vermilion River Beer company officially opened in July of 2019.

Early concepts included a full-fledged brewery and brewery emulations. Again, the partners slowed down and the idea evolved to connecting the community with the craft beer market. No matter how else the bar evolves, the partners agree that the atmosphere where people can enjoy good beer with good friends is central to their mission. “There are other great bars downtown that have been around a lot longer than us and that can do things a lot better than us too. For us to try to recreate that model was silly. Our only goal is to be different. This bar was about having a beer and a conversation. We wanted to create an atmosphere that drinking was second to the conversation.”

The bar was designed to be a meeting place. The community engagement that you see today has been an organic evolution. Peter says, “Those things weren’t part of the model. They were opportunities that presented which just made sense. We feel that we have a responsibility to get involved in the Downtown community as much as we can.”

You’ll find many marks of that commitment to the community throughout their business. The bar offers a craft beer named “Joyful Bubbles” that honors a late friend of the partners and is a nod to a local business. A dollar from every pint of Joyful Bubbles sold goes to a local charity each month.

The bar partners with local artists to feature their art on a monthly basis. Additionally, you can hear talented local musicians play at Vermilion River Beer Company frequently. You’ll also find that VRBC partners with other businesses. For instance, they have a wonderfully rewarding partnership with Lovin’ Cup Food Truck. Pete says, “They rise to every silly challenge we put in front of them and do so with a willingness and creativity energy. We’re lucky have them as partners.”

You may also come across a VRBC bar in an unexpected location. The crew at VRBC has a mobile bar that developed out of a gap in the market. Catering comes with an entirely different set of requirements with licensing, insurance, and duplicate equipment. Those events are a true testament to the truly outstanding staff at VRBC.

Pete says, “We have amazing staff. Honestly, most of our team has been around since the beginning. That’s unheard of. They believe in this model and this community. Their influence is throughout our menu and our service model and most importantly, our shenanigans.”

VRBC is positioned on the intersection of North and Vermilion with great visibility in Downtown. The location is what encourages them to get involved in what’s going on outside of our front door. Peter says, “The climate in Downtown Danville is amazing. I really feel like people feel inspired to take a piece of downtown. It’s a contagious vibe.”

Visit Vermilion River Beer Company. It’s good beer.

Behind the Storefront is a glimpse into the heartbeat of Downtown Danville’s business community. Presented by Downtown Danville Inc., this series will unveil the stories of our local entrepreneurs who are investing in the community of Downtown Danville. With each story we aim to forge a stronger bond between our residents and the spirited individuals who shape the economic landscape of our city center.

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