As Lagunitas Chicago’s taproom opens for the first time today, we’ve taken a look at two legacies – that of Joseph T. Ryerson, founder of what is now Ryerson Inc., a metals processor and distributor with $3+ billion in sales, and Magee, founder of Lagunitas Brewing Company, now the fifth-largest craft brewer in the country. Don’t miss Part One and Part Two of this article.
State of the Art: In Steel Distribution and In Brewing
A principal testament to Joseph Ryerson and Tony Magee’s mutual drive and success is their commitment to state of the art elements in every aspect of business.
Source: Ryerson’s Ready Reference
In 1922, Ryerson offered customers its downtown offices, located in the Railway Exchange Building, to use as their “headquarters when in the city,” urging them to “use the telephone and stenographic services we provide.” Best of all, they offered car service “every hour on the hour” to the general offices at the plant on the Rockwell campus – only a “fifteen minutes ride.”
Not only that, the company extolled at the time that “the Ryerson offices have been built for convenience and expedition of service. There is plenty of light and air and the most modern office equipment is employed on every hand. A 6-position private branch telephone exchange, yielding instant connection with every section of the plant and offices and the outside world,” according to Engineering World.
For his part, Magee has made sure that the best in German engineering – massive Rolec stainless steel tanks and fermenters – will take his brewmasters’ artistry and parlay it into 1.6 million barrels of beer per year when the brewery is fully completed.
“Initially, we were going to use only half the building” for production, Karen Hamilton told me. “Then we realized we needed the whole building.”
Magee has also made sure to provide his own customers with a worthwhile fifteen-minute ride – on brew tours, for example. I was able to circumnavigate the operation on a catwalk that surrounds the gleaming stainless equipment, the humming bottling line and the mountain of silver-and-blue kegs stamped with “LAGUNITAS” on them, all ready to conquer the country east and west of the Mississippi.
Lagunitas, Ryerson to Last Forever?
Perhaps the most interesting crossover between Lagunitas and Ryerson Inc., between Tony Magee and Joseph T. Ryerson, is their companies’ legacy that many say will continue to last for many, many years to come.