He may be the leader at Upland Brewing Company’s newest location on 82nd Street, but Demond Lewis has been working with Upland in different capacities for the past 2 years. With a self-described “swavvy” management style, Demond’s impact is evident throughout the new location and several other Upland locations.
Demond’s big, bold personality is a perfect match for Upland, and we’re lucky to have him. Please enjoy getting to know Demond!
When did you first learn about Upland, and what drew you to want to work here?
I ran into a former colleague (Andrew Priller, Regional Manager North at Upland Brewing Company) years back and he offered me the opportunity to manage an Upland Brewing Company location. I declined that first offer. I was pursuing my business degree and looking for a career change. Then, I ran into him again. We met up at the Fountain Square location for an interview and then, I took the job right away. I wasn’t drawn to the job then either. But I was drawn to Upland after I read the mission and vision statements. It blew my mind because it matched my own mission and vision at the time, and my complete mentality of life. I’m not going to lie, it brought a tear to my eye. People wonder why I work so hard. That’s why. From that point on, I decided to give 100 percent of myself to this company.
What did you do before joining Upland?
I had done a lot of things before joining Upland, but most recently I had left an amazing place called Sauce on the Side. They made calzones from scratch. The owners were good friends that raked up some money and opened up a business tossing dough. Turns out people loved the calzones. They started in St. Louis, and I ended up working at the first one in Indiana as a manager. Their drive to be better and use what they know to take it to the next level was an inspiration to me.
Tell us about the new 82nd Street location. What makes it special?
What makes this location so special is that they hand-picked the company’s best employee to run the show! They gave me the ability to interview everyone and mold an elite squad of amazing personalities. We don’t really have employees here. It’s just a bunch of friends and family hanging out.
This location comes with a lot of raw energy, straight bliss, unexpected experiences you won’t get anywhere else. I want the staff to bring their personalities to the table, that way nobody is really “working.” The staff is different because they mold each other in a skillful, tactful way. We also have a lot of diversity, different backgrounds.
We had phenomenal contractors that put blood, sweat and tears (literally) into this place. The people that built this location have a deep appreciation for this brewery we call Upland. This is not a restaurant where the front of house staff only stays in the front of house. The whole staff has the ability to navigate through the whole space. In that way, we stand alone. Upland Brewing Company is just ran in a different, special way. And 82nd Street is going to be labeled the most special of them all. It already is because of the respect, the staff and the diversity, which I love the most.
What is your favorite Upland beer, and why?
I always say expect the unexpected… my favorite beer is the 2 of Tarts! That beer is so well balanced. It’s not too heavy, but just heavy enough. Crispy, but smooth. Tart, but not in your face about it. It’s just like me, laid back but really fun.
What is one of the most meaningful memories of working at Upland?
I have so many! One of them is about a special guy that started as a host and asked me if he could become a server. This was his first restaurant job, so I wasn’t sure he was ready, and turned him down. I gave him some gold nuggets of advice from time to time, just to see what he would do with it. This was actually in my first month of working with Upland. I think the nuggets I dropped were very beneficial for me and for him, because I could have taken the route of not wasting my time with the advice, but something in me had changed. At one point, I had been in his position, asking to move up and being nervous about it. During my entire restaurant career, I had the passion to be better. I saw some of my traits swimming around in his head, he just had to learn how to use his stick, yarn and hook. I learned from experience that all you need in life is to move forward and sideways, but not backwards; I saw that in him, too. So I ended up giving him a chance to serve. He looked like a baby deer learning how to walk! Everyday was a struggle. But what set him apart was that he was willing to learn and be moldable.
One time I was working in the kitchen at the Carmel location and came out to check on the dining room. A 5-top was leaving (a group of older individuals and some young adults). I waved goodbye, and they all pointed at the server and said, “we’ll be back because of that guy.” One actually gave him a huge hug. I thought to myself, “That’s the kind of employee everyone should strive to be like.” Later I gave him a hug too, with tears in my eyes. Now he’s a front of house manager and a restaurant trainer, setting an example to other employees. I now send new employees to him to be trained, and that really blows my mind and excites me.
What is appealing to you about the hospitality industry?
Instant gratification. I never added gratuity to any party at all. Guest first-mentality at all times in the industry is something that people rarely have. I love Upland Brewing Company because all the people that manage above me move in the same direction. I talk about how to wow a guest or break ice instantly, and they get it.
A lot of people will not believe the satisfaction you get giving somebody a limo ride. Have you ever been in a limo? They just have everything you need in there; just get in and enjoy the ride. I am a person that loves people’s personalities and having a fun time, and I balance that with hard work. The reason people are walking into my building is because they like beer. Our brewers are seriously masters at their craft. They figured it out. The chess game just keeps going on because this industry is constantly changing. The beer they make gets tweaked until it’s perfect, and they have made some damn good beer if you ask me.
The hospitality industry works perfectly for me because I love to work hard, and I love the great like-minded people around me, also. Everyone that applies to Upland gets interviewed and if you don’t share the same passion it’s no problem. We will likely still have something that works for you. I love knowing that every position in a restaurant is equally important. That’s one thing that I make clear during the interview.
I love the instant gratification from this industry because you sometimes go home thinking, “Tonight was rough, but we solved problems in the moment and let others with the same passion as me see problem-solving done with finesse. I like to call my management style “Swavvy.”
Outside of your work life, what’s something else you’re passionate about?
Music. I want to do more with music. I love the passion these people have when it comes to instruments. People that create music, I feel like, change the world. I used to write songs and perform sometimes. I’ll play those songs back to myself and my mood totally changes. I feel like I can produce #1 hits like you wouldn’t believe. If I got paid to listen to music all day and critique and critique, and fix and fix, man, the ideas are endless. Another reason I love Upland is because for a while there I was getting paid to listen to music. I had to cook in Carmel’s kitchen for a little while, and the only thing that saved me is that nobody cares about me listening to music in the kitchen. Oh, it was not a quiet kitchen. I love that. music sets the vibe.
I would listen to a cassette tape when I was younger. I think it created the patience I have today because some cassette tapes only had 3 good songs on it, but you had to listen to a lot of the terrible songs just to get to the one you liked. My staff doesn’t know this about me because I don’t like to talk about the person I was straight out of high school, but I was recording music at a studio–a very popular studio with great artists. I fell asleep on the opportunity, left the studio and started messing my life up. That’s part of why I work so hard today.
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© 2021 Upland Brewing Company
© 2021 Upland Brewing Company