Spring is typically known as the season of renewal and rebirth. These four Idahoans did just that, essentially trading in their stable careers to pursue what they considered a labor of love: creating distinctive food and drink. In the process of their reinvention, they successfullytransitioned from working with convicts and delivering babies to brewing craft beer, from designing buildings to opening a restaurant, and from creating innovative technologies to roasting uniquely flavored nuts.
Name: James long
Former occupation: Alaska Helicopter Nurse; ER/trauma nurse, Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center
Current occupation: Brewer/Co-owner Barbarian Brewing
As a helicopter nurse stationed in Anchorage, Alaska, James Long was responsible for providing care to people in harsh, remote locations.
“The worst thing was when I had to catch a baby in the middle of nowhere,” said Long. “It was about three hours away from civilization.”
After moving to Boise, Long worked as an ER nurse at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center and his wife, Bre Hovley, worked at a data company.
“It’s such a high intensity, high burnout rate. I couldn’t do it for another 30 years,” said Long. “She [Bre] didn’t want to be stuck at a desk her whole life. We said, ‘screw it, let’s just try it.’”
With Long’s background as a homebrewer, and Hovley’s business experience, they decided to open a brewery. For the first nine months the business was open, Long continued to work three 12-hour shifts per week at the hospital, and spent the other four days of each week at the brewery.
“We planned for the worst and hoped for the best,” said Long, who continues to renew his nursing license.
Now, instead of delivering babies in the Alaskan bush, Long oversees Barbarian Brewing as it delivers a range of experimental and traditional brews from its taphouse in Garden City (and a second location scheduled to open in the former Crux space in downtown boise this year).
“That’s one of the great things about being a mom-and-pop business: We get to have a good time with it,” said Long. “It’s a good creative outlet.”
Name: Zack Keihl
Former occupation: Probation and parole officer, Idaho Department of Correction
Current occupation: Brewer/Co-owner, County Line Brewing
When Zack Kiehl founded County Line Brewing in March 2015, he was working full-time as a probation and parole officer for the Idaho department of Correction.
“I never liked what I did, but I was good at it,” said Kiehl.
Though the hours were long, one of the benefits was a flexible work schedule. This flexibility allowed Kiehl to simultaneously work his day job and open a brewery.
“With parole, you often have some leniency with how you run things,” said Kiehl, describing how he would stop at the brewery on the way to work, then again at lunch, and then again at night after he finished his parole rounds.
In an effort to save money during the setup, Kiehl, the self-titled “fixer of things,” bought used dairy equipment instead of commercial beer brewing tanks. The result is a unique, homemade brewing setup that Kiehl continues to tinker with.
“I’m a home brewer at heart,” said Kiehl. “Lucky enough to do it on a professional level.”
Though brewing beer and working as a parole officer are different, Kiehl sees some similarities.
“There’s crowd management stuff, how to talk to people,” said Kiehl. “That self-starter mentality. it’s a lot more fun here, because people want to be here, and people want to talk to me. At the other job they didn’t want to talk to me.”
Name: Dan Balluff
Former occupation: Various roles, Hewlett-Packard Company
Current occupation: Owner/operator, City Peanut Shop
“I grew up in Michigan. There was a little peanut shop in my hometown where I used to go with my family. Whenever my dad used to come visit, he would say, ‘You should open a peanut shop.’ it was a family joke,” said Dan Balluff, owner of City Peanut shop in downtown Boise. “Then I started wondering if it was a viable option. So i got a roaster, threw some nuts in it and that was the start.”
Prior to earning his nickname, “The Peanut Guy,” Balluff spent 17 years working for Hewlett-Packard. That job led him to live in Amsterdam
for a couple years, where he became interested in locally produced food products. Though Balluff doesn’t have a culinary background, he makes up for it with lessons he learned in the technology industry.
“At HP, collaboration was important. You had to work with other people to get things done,” said Balluff. “People close their minds to the idea of collaboration. I would urge people to keep their minds open. You never know.”
This collaboration-oriented mindset has led City Peanut Shop to work with various businesses around town and create a variety of nut flavors, including barbecue and a “brewers series,” which is roasted with local craft beer.
“I went from high-tech to peanuts. People made fun of it a little bit,” said Balluff. “It was a challenge to myself, but i’ve gotten such support. It’s been fun.”
Name: Brian Garrett
Former occupation: Architect
Current occupation: Architect and owner, Saint Lawrence Gridiron Restaurant
When Brian Garrett custom-built his first food truck, he viewed it the same way he viewed his architecture projects.
“I think the process is the same. You can look at any business or creative endeavor as a project,” said Garrett. “There are a lot of creative
procedural similarities [between architecture and running a restaurant].
Garrett has been practicing architecture since he earned a master’s degree in the field from University of Idaho in 2001. He took a short break to be a stay-at-home dad, and during that time he experimented with various homemade recipes. After hosting a successful dinner party with friends, Garrett was invited to what he described as a rogue, unlicensed food club called the Boise Urban Market. This market was a place for amateur chefs to create and trade original dishes and to practice cooking for a crowd.
After the Boise Urban Market shut down, Garrett continued to pursue his culinary passions. He cut a window out of the side of a snapon tools truck and started selling his food around town. Although the food truck was successful, Garrett quickly found that he had to make adjustments to his cooking style.
“It’s different than when you’re just cooking for you and your lady and you can spend all night on just two steaks,” said Garrett.
Garrett now multi-tasks as the owner of Saint Lawrence Gridiron and as a practicing architect.
“If someone’s building a building, why not build a good one? Give it a little think,” said Garrett. “It’s the same with food: ‘What can we do with this?’ If you’re going to do something, why not think about it before you do it?”