Alumnus' Business Focuses on Craft Beer and Community

College of Arts and Sciences selects John Couture to receive Alumni Award
Portrait of John Couture

Each year, the UMKC Alumni Association recognizes the achievements of outstanding alumni with an awards celebration. In 2020, the UMKC College of Arts and Sciences is honoring John Couture (B.A. ’96) with its Alumni Achievement Award.

In 2012, Couture launched Bier Station, the first spot for sampling and enjoying craft beer in Kansas City. In addition to being an award-winning nationally recognized destination for beer enthusiasts, he’s worked hard to make his business a civic asset with an emphasis on giving back to the community. He spoke to us recently about how he's getting by during COVID-19 and his time at UMKC.

How are you coping with the stay-at-home order as a small business owner?

We know many friend in the local restaurant/bar/brewery industry are struggling mightily right now — not just economically, but emotionally. COVID-19 has wreaked havoc among local businesses that oftentimes don’t have the deep pockets of corporations to withstand weeks, let alone months, of shuttered business.

The one thing many of us do have now is time. If you want to support your favorite, local businesses, you can start by monitoring their social media. Can you place a carry-out or delivery order? How about contributing to a Go Fund Me page to support its laid-off staff? Or, purchase a gift card online to provide immediate revenue to the business. Even just a personal note of encouragement and support to a business can mean so much when each day is filled with uncertainty and anxiety.

Your major at UMKC was communication studies. How does that help you in running a business?

Communication is vital to everything we do. Our relationships with breweries are dependent upon strong communications. We try to always be professional, but friendly, and collaborative, which goes a long way to helping keep a business healthy.

How did you come up with the idea for a craft beer shop? How did you put it in motion?

I went to Europe with my best friend in 2006. We were always big craft beer fans, and we really appreciated how laid-back European pubs were. They were much more family-friendly than America. A few years later, I was researching online and saw the craft beer tasting/bottle shop concept that was hot in the Northwest, but not in the Midwest yet. Bier Station was the Midwest’s first craft beer tasting/bar/bottle shop, and we’re definitely known for our family-friendly neighborhood vibe. Selfishly, I also wanted to make sure my daughters would feel comfortable visiting me at work.

John with women from CCVI and a check for donation.
Couture, pictured right, stands with representatives from Children's Center for the Visually Impaired as they receive their donation check.
Bier Station maintains an ongoing, community-focused charitable fundraising program. Since January 2017, the pub has raised more than $160,000 for causes ranging from veterans’ programs to animal shelters to suicide prevention – as well as the UMKC Women's Center, Kansas City Athletics and Kansas City’s NPR affiliate station, KCUR. Why is it important to you to support and be active in the community?

Sometimes I still can’t believe I have a job that revolves around beer. I feel very fortunate. I also feel we have a duty to give back to our community. It helps give our staff a sense of pride to know when they come to work and pour a beer for a fundraiser, it’s for a great cause.

What advice do you have for students who’d like to follow in your footsteps?

Be confident, but respectful and always think of others in everything you do. I’ve found that a little bit goes a long way when you take others’ wellbeing into consideration with your everyday work life.

Meet the rest of the 2020 UMKC Alumni Awardees

Published: Feb 26, 2020

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