Fresh out of brewing school, Christian West and his family—including parents Kim and Gil West—decided to relocate from Atlanta to Southwest Florida, which Gil, the former COO for Delta Airlines, had frequented for 20-something years. In early 2019, purchasing Naples-based Riptide Brewing seemed like a timely next chapter. “We decided it would be a great family business,” says Kim West.
Not long after, COVID-19 hit and devastated small businesses across Southwest Florida. But the new owners at Riptide kept the brewery afloat. By November 2020, Riptide was at about 65%-70% of sales compared to November 2019, pre-COVID. “I’m not somebody to look at what you can’t do,” West says. “There is always something you can do.”
Riptide gave a new meaning to “living in a bubble” when it installed two temporary plastic spheres around its outdoor tables last summer, along with plexiglass barriers indoors, so the Naples brewery could stay open while keeping guests safe. “We’re big on community,” West says. “It’s specifically the reason why we wanted to have a family business.”
The community starts from the inside. All workers are paid a living wage, and many major business decisions are made by committee. “Investing in my people is super important to me,” West says. “If you’re going to work with us, it’s a partnership.” The owners also found a way to honor workers in the community during turbulent times. Weekly specials in December included discounts to hospitality workers, military veterans and active-duty service members, frontline workers and teachers.
The Wests plan to expand the brand—and, in turn, its customer base— in the future. “We are looking for a production facility and plan on expanding into canning or bottling,” West says, with a second taproom attached, too.
Reliability is a core concept of Riptide, which is taking steps to become a neighborhood favorite. The business is slowly getting back to hosting events as it did pre-COVID, such as trivia, live music and karaoke nights. “We just want to be the place where people come either by themselves or with a group of people, but they have someone to talk to,” West says. “I hope we’re making strides to go there.”