Greg Koch looks like the actor from Into the Wild. Not poisoned and dying, but as if there’s a razorblade shortage. A rivulet of white hair runs down the front of his beard; I ask him if he dyes it like Guy Fieri. He looks at me as if trying to make my throat constrict. With hat, sunglasses and running shoes—scratch that. Stone Brewing's head honcho looks exactly like Forrest Gump on his jog toward enlightenment.
"Gotta keep the heart healthy and maintain my girlish figure," he explains.
We’re standing between Downtown’s Museum of Contemporary Art and the former home of Rainwater’s on Kettner. Koch points to a "courtyard"—a collection of drab foliage, white stucco filler, some concrete. Koch doesn’t say it, but I do—it looks like The Most Uninspiring Courtyard in the World. A resident passing by with his dog echoes the sentiment: "Whatever you guys are pointing at and doing," he says, "Thank you. I’ve been waiting for something—anything—to come into this place for a long time. Something cool."
If locations in South Park, Oceanside and Pasadena are any indication, Stone Company Stores are cool. The lease is finalized. Stone will open company store number four at 1202 Kettner Boulevard. They’ll turn that nondescript courtyard into a beer oasis with prehistoric rock sculptures, ornate foliage and water features. It will be a beard sanctuary, and it will be a big draw for the west end of Downtown.
When Rainwater’s left this spot in 2008, it was a sign America had really changed. Tumbleweeds and cowboy whistles filled the west end of Downtown. But a tenant like Stone could bring a lot of traffic back to the area. Koch says he’s not doing a restaurant; beer and assorted Stone Brewing retail only. So expect a restaurateur to jump on Rainwater’s former location within weeks, eager to feed Stone’s people.
So stop whistling, silly cowboy. There’s signs of life on the West Side.