“Bavarian inspired, Southern made” is their catchphrase. Making sure you eat at their restaurant in Charleston is their game. Clemson is their shared love. Ryan Workman, Emily Barber Workman and Greg Pierdon are all Clemson grads, but it was a game of kickball and acquaintances in Charleston five years ago that brought them together post graduation.
Along with business partner Laura Patrick, the three took a conversation about what was missing in their home of Charleston into a reality that is Bay Street Biergarten. “We saw something different,” said Ryan. It took the group meeting every week for a year to chase their dream.
You won’t find kitsch at Bay Street Biergarten though. No lederhosen for sure, but pretzels and schnitzel are abundant. But you’ll also find gator and shrimp and grits on the menu. The 7,400-squarefoot facility is the renovated Wilmington Railroad Depot, offering large exposed beams and original brick, as well as family-style seating for large groups waiting to take in the latest Tigertown brawl.
“We wanted patrons to have a traditional German biergarten experience,” said Ryan. “We wanted it to feel like a beer hall, but then have the tech side of it. We use iPads to put in orders directly from the table. We have taps at the table, and you can use a card to pay by the ounce.”
The three said their love of Clemson and the Clemson network only strengthened their ties to each other and the community as they pushed toward their goals over the past four years. “Solid Orange continues to show support,” said Greg. “It feels pretty good to know you have the support. They seek you out. And it’s a good conversation starter.”
Lessons learned at Clemson, from Greg’s accounting degree to Ryan and Emily’s work in communications and management also come into play every day to keep the business running. Emily said her psychology major is constantly at work as she manages staff and expectations for different personalities. “It’s a people business, and you have to be willing to get yourself out there,” said Emily about management. The three said their team meetings and team spirit, much like they learned through the Greek system while at Clemson, keep them in check when days get long.
“We have to drive each other. Complacency is death in this industry,” said Greg. “It’s a cutthroat business … and we’re driving it.”