A word of thanks and hope from Hopskeller Brewmeister Matt Schweitzer…
He and Waterloo officials were in Chicago this weekend accepting an award honoring their study of Waterloo’s history. While Matt was a teacher at Gibault, he spearheaded a project with his students studying Waterloo’s history. Here are Matt’s words late on a Sunday night…
Whew, okay, so, where to begin... I'm sure we've all basically heard what happened this morning at Hopskeller. Unfortunately, I know about as much as you do about the circumstances surrounding the fire and don't want to speculate beyond saying that it doesn't look good.
I am, as you can probably imagine, heartbroken and beyond words at seeing something so many people, myself included, have worked on for more than 2 ½ years go up in literal and metaphorical smoke. That being said, there is a lot that my lil' brain needs to express in writing. I don't often make posts like this, but given the circumstances, I think it's totally acceptable.
First and foremost, I am so glad that nobody was hurt. This happened early in the morning and neither guests nor workers were around. I want to thank everyone who frantically texted my [dead] cell phone this morning asking if I was okay, knowing that I live above the brewery. While a part of me will always feel a pang of guilt that I wasn't there (even though I could have done literally nothing), I shudder to think of what could have happened if I were not in Chicago at an awards banquet, and instead sound asleep in an apartment that rapidly flooded with smoke. This thought has been setting in throughout the day, and with every hour I consider myself more and more lucky to be able to write this tonight. There were about a million ways this could have been worse, and fortunately for all of us we don't have to tread down those particular roads.
Second, a huge thanks needs to go out to the people at the Waterloo City Hall and the first responders from around the county (firefighters, police, utility crews and ambulance personnel). This wasn't a small fire; the firefighters (from Waterloo, Red Bud and Columbia) and Waterloo and County police involved were consummate professionals. You have my and our deepest gratitude.
Thanks so much to Mayor Tom Smith, Waterloo Finance Director Shawn Kennedy and Community Relations Director Sarah Deutch who were with me in Chicago. They kept me in the loop and lent me their phones when needed. I don't think I've ever felt so helpless in my life as I did pacing through the airport in Chicago while I received real-time updates of how things had progressed in the fire – as well as the creeping realization that this was going to be much more serious than a little smoke damage. I felt calm and level headed standing next to Tom, Shawn and Sarah around me. I also received dozens of calming calls that sent helped me not have a meltdown before boarding the plane back home.
Third.... well, holy crap y'all. I don't know how many Facebook messages, texts, calls, offers of help, and hugs I've received today, but the outpouring of support from friends, family and perfect strangers I've received are just unreal. For all of you who have sent me your regards: truly, thank you. I may not have been able to respond to everyone quite yet but you're absolutely in my thoughts.
Am I devastated beyond words over all of this? I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't. Beyond the obvious loss, my heart goes out to the amazing Hopskeller staff that simply excelled in the five weeks we were open. To Luke and James for consistently kicking ass through even the most stressful of times; to all of the builders and tradesmen who put so much blood, sweat and tears into this project; and to Doug and Dan, two of the best assistants a brew master could ask for.
I can promise you that we will come back from this fire bigger and better than ever before. It’s going to be a long and painful restoration process… but stay tuned for updates as they happen!