One day out of the entire year, Here’s to You Pub & Grub is closed — for the annual all-staff trip to a Tiger’s game.
Owner Kevin Conant graduated from Hillsdale High School and went to college and received a degree in computer science, but said he only used his degree briefly in the practical world because he “didn’t like fixing people problems who didn’t want them fixed.”
Conant soon returned to Hillsdale and opened Here’s to You, Pub & Grub in 2007 with his dad, his late wife Jessica, and Tim Hergert, his best friend since age 15 with whom he used to brew on his front porch.
“Sitting on his porch, Conant told Herget, ‘we should open a bar,’ so we did,” Conant said. “And the rest is history.”
“I thought I knew what I wanted to after college, but I didn’t,” Conant said. “I’m 42, and I really don’t know what I’m going to do when I grow up. I dabble in real estate, here, at a brewery I’ve opened this restaurant. If it looks like fun, I’ll try it.”
Conant said that he found satisfaction in bartending.
“Here, it’s not exactly a need to fix things,” Conant said. “Here you just talk about sports and stuff like that. Sometimes we have break-in conversations about girlfriends. I call it a single serving problem once they walk out the door they’re out of your mind.”
Conant said no degree could have prepared him to run a bar.
“I had no experience when I started Pub & Grub,” Conant said. “I have figured it out through trial and error. I decide to go to business with Tim because I knew him since I was 15 years old. It just sounded like something fun to do at the time.”
Rough Draft co-owner Carlyn Hubbard ’16 said that not even knee surgery a week before the Hillsdale Brewing Company’s soft opening could stop Conant from bringing the Brewing Company and craft beer to Hillsdale, which he opened in January with the help of his staff.
“You only do this for as long as Kevin has and then start a new business like he has if you really love it,” Hubbard said. “But he’s also disciplined. Pub & Grub is open every single day except for one day.”
Conant said that craft beer existed since the 60s, but ‘blew up’ within the last six years.
“I’ve always been in the craft beer because I have out of necessity,” Conant said. “I started drinking craft beer because my uncle drove for a beer delivery company and craft really didn’t sell in the late 90s early 2000s, so I got all of it for free.”
Conant said the brewery in just in its soft opening but will host its grand opening soon.
“We’re going to have a grand opening with music and a lot more things. We’re just trying to get our service trains are Brewing practices down and our food down Before I even advertise,” Conant said. “But we’ve been so busy we haven’t been able to do anything. We ran out of food at 7 pm on Saturday we had a closing because we were out of food for that day.”
Conant added that people followed him from Pub & Grub to the Brewery.
“Both people want good food and craft beer,” Conant said. “I see a lot of the same customers.”
Hubbard said she didn’t understand how it felt to own a small town business until she invested in Hillsdale.
“Every hour that Rough Draft is open I’m thinking about it, I’m worrying about it, and I’m excited about it,” Hubbard said. “It’s tiring, but so beautiful. I can’t wait to wake up and be inspired by him every day. Kevin never stops. “
Hubbard said Conant mentioned things she had never worried about: mainly the number of holes in his wall.
“Now I’m just afraid someone’s going to punch a hole in my wall,” Hubbard said. “I think he’s so used to it now that it’s not even an interesting thing to talk about.”
Conant said that between Pub & Grub, the brewery, and his two-year-old daughter, and his wife dying, he couldn’t have opened his new restaurant without his staff at both restaurants.
Conant said he personally interviews employees before hiring them because he wants to ensure they will treat customers right.
“Working for me is pretty easy to work for as long as you do what you’re told,” Conant said. “The first 15 minutes with someone I can usually tell if I can work with them or not.”
Conant said that his bar is probably where college students and townspeople interact the most in Hillsdale.
“We form a good relationship with students. We start to learn each other’s names and acknowledge each other in public and that’s nice,” Conant said. “The ones who come in here they always come back during Parent Weekend, and they always come back. We’ve had some great kids over the years.”
Conant explained their original bar idea.
“I wanted to cater to everybody. That’s what’s fun,” Conant said. “Obviously, some kids consider us townies and some stuff like that, but everybody intermingles here, and that’s what’s fun about it,” Conant said. “I’ve had very few fights between townspeople and students, but we squash them very quickly. It’s 2018 no one does bar fights anymore.”
Conant said that people from all walks of life and socioeconomic statuses visit his bar nightly.
“A book club comes every Thursday, but don’t bring books. Instead, they drink, have dinner, and socialize. It’s a lot of fun. We really do have a good time.”
Rob Ray, Pub & Grub’s kitchen manager, said that he started working here a year-and-a-half ago because a Pub & Grub staff member suggested he work for them instead his current bar.
“I was told by a staff member here that my personality fit in better here than in a country bar,” he said. “Kevin’s a little bit Rock N Roll, the other place was more country,” he said.
Ray said he finds satisfaction cooking good food.
“The kitchen is my area. I make every special and food if you had something I probably made it. I make sure we have everything we need,” Ray said.” I was hired as a cook and then upgraded to a bartender.”
“He was upgraded to my left hand,” Conant explained.
Conant also designed ‘Dougie the Barfly’ who is grasping a beer in the front of Pub & Grub, which he said over 500 people have purchased through his shirts and hoodies.
“I like being a bartender because I like giving people satisfaction and boarding and giving my opinion of the best burger or certain flavor of beer,” Conant said. “I love coming to work every day. I have a 2-year-old and sometimes it’s hard to pry myself away from her to come here to have fun. But I like to work. I always have. And beside me, these people are all my family.”
Conant said his family and friends have helped him since day one.
“Everything here in this bar we built ourselves: me, my dad, and Tim,” Conant said. “This was a hair salon with pink floors and a lot of paneling when we moved in.”