Here is some of the interview along with Dr. DeMareʻs responses:
A little over a year ago, one of Hawaii’s few breweries was sold out of bankruptcy to a relatively unknown buyer. Long time Honolulu oncologist, Dr. Paul DeMare, beat out a slew of other bidders to purchase Hawaii Nui and Mehana Brewing Company based in Hilo. Many wondered, why a life long doctor, would purchase a struggling brewery. I recently got a chance to sit down with Dr. DeMare to find out more about why he decided to buy the brewery and what his plans are for reviving the company. Mehana cans are now back on the market with Hawaii Nui products coming later this summer.
How did you come to buy Hawaii Nui/Mehana Brewing Company?
I was on vacation and my neighbor had collected a bunch of newspapers for me. I was going through them on Memorial Day weekend. I saw that the brewery had gone bankrupt and there was essentially going to be a sale of it. The dollar amount that was in the paper was really quite low. I have an interest in the Big Island because I used to work there doing radiation oncology. I guess I must have been looking for a new avenue because I was/am in the process of trying to retire from the medical field.
So were you looking for a new investment?
No. It just really fell in my lap.
Did it really happen that easily?
It was a business and I enjoy drinking beer. I follow up on it and I called the attorneys who were handling the bankruptcy and a day or two later Andy Baker (then President of Hawaii Nui) came over to my house. We sat and talked for a few hours and he told me all the great things about the brewery. It seemed like a really good opportunity. The location was just right. If this were on Maui or Kauai I probably wouldn’t have paid much attention to it. But the fact it was in Hilo, a community that I know, made it a good fit. I really enjoy it there and I know the people there.
Have you practiced medicine your entire life?
Yes. The only business I’ve ever owned is my medical practice business.
How did you end up in Hawaii?
I’m originally from Cooperstown, New York. I first came to Hawaii as an intern back in 1967. I went back to the mainland and did my residency at Jefferson in Philadelphia, then a years fellowship in London, and then came back to Jefferson as an assistant professor. A job finally opened up back here in Hawaii and I said, goodbye to Philadelphia. Hawaii is a great place to live and after experience the blizzard of 1966 in upstate New York, I said no thank you.
There were more than a few entities in the bidding for the brewery. How did you win out?
I offered a little more money and also offered a down payment. The other people interested didn’t choose to up the ante.
What your vision for the company?
The vision for the brewery is to survive, which means not to go bankrupt again. I’m the sole owner of the company and I think one of the issues previously was that the owners didn’t have a common vision. I feel I can provide a clear vision.
After the purchase of the company, how much further investment was needed to help get the company to a healthy place?
I think the previous company was not well capitalized and it’s taken a fair amount of money. It was more than I thought was needed…
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