For brothers Matt and Paul Kavan the journey that brought them to Ranier as owners of Loony’s Brew has crossed decades and three continents. The brothers grew up in suburban Minneapolis to parents who grew up in rural Minnesota and valued travel. Upon nearing retirement they scouted numerous lake locations in Wisconsin and Minnesota and as part of the process spent a weekend on Rainy Lake and quickly decided they’d found their retirement destination. That sowed the early connection to the area.
Matt started his career after graduating from the University of Wisconsin/Madison with a degree in materials engineering. He landed a job in southern California with a semi-conductor company. After several years with the firm, he left to spend time backpacking in Europe and staying in hostels. He moved back to the states and re-entered the workforce writing renewable energy software for a Minnesota firm. After a stint there, the firm struggled and Matt returned to the tech world in southern California with his old firm. The firm acquired a small company in Belgium and Matt jumped on the opportunity to move there to work. After two years in Belgium his boss started a tech company in Hong Kong and Matt followed him there for a time. During this time, Paul (10 years Matt’s junior) had just graduated college in California. Matt decided to return and share an apartment with his brother in the San Francisco bay area. They embarked on an internet company that ultimately didn’t work and began evaluating a California lifestyle that had begun to get increasingly expensive, crowded, and manic. That got them thinking Minnesota and Rainy Lake and ultimately the village of Ranier.
They moved to Ranier in November 2015 looking at potential opportunities. The iconic Woody’s Pub and Resort Building on the waterfront in Ranier stood empty and for sale. The brothers purchased the building in December and were able to move in and begin making improvements (some planned, some unforeseen) on the old building and pub. The new Loony’s pub opened in February with beer and wine and new décor that reflected their style – “there will never be a TV here”. The new Loony’s was received well by the locals who missed the intimate and quirky bar with the great views of Sand Bay and the adjoining decks. As they grew into their new space and managed improvements and cash flow, they added liquor and began open mic nights, and live music on Saturdays. And with some of the best tasting water out their front door, they began making plans to brew their own beer. After much research and talking to existing brew pubs, they began investing in brewing equipment and a space in the building to make their own brew. They will begin making test batches in November and hope to begin selling their own creations in January – making Loony’s the first brew pub in Koochiching County.
“It’s been a process,” said Matt. “There’s a lot of pieces to put together, from the equipment to the licensing and specifications, but we’re getting there.”
While they’re hitting their stride, it was a bit of an adjustment coming from California to the quaint village. “One of the biggest surprises is how the weather affects people coming out,” said Matt. “But I think on the whole we’ve been received well by our customers and neighbors. We’re really looking forward to next year.”
As to whether craft brewing is a fad, “Not at all. I see this growing into other rural areas – we’re still early into this.”
For more information on Loony’s Brew, check out their website – www.loonysbrew.com