Subscribe to "Escondido Business Insight" for more stories like this delivered monthly to your inbox.

Little Miss Brewing is Serving its Staff During These Difficult Times

Family comes in all forms. Everyone is born into a family, but sometimes our coworkers become as important to us as our families. This is true for Jade Mischner, owner of Little Miss Brewing, and her husband Greg Malkin, its Operations Manager, who are giving back to and supporting their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bartender Jason capturing the spirit of fun at Little Miss Brewing

“Our staff have very little protection from the pandemic,” said Malkin. “We pay them minimum wage, like all restaurants/bars.” While these bartenders and servers can currently apply for unemployment, their unemployment checks don’t take into account the tips they recieve which significantly increases their overall salary. “Tips are how our staff can survive in very expensive Southern California,” Malkin added.

When Governor Newsom requested that all bars and restaurants shut down to only take out and delivery services, Mischner and Malkin were faced with the reality that much of their staff would be in financial trouble. 

Malkin realized, “We were left with an impossible choice that became an obvious one. Do we lay our staff off knowing it would be impossible for them to pay their bills, do we keep operating under the new restrictions with a guaranteed drastic drop in sales and tips, or do we take the hit ourselves and make sure our staff is taken care of?” 

Bartender Heather serving up suds and smiles

Before the pandemic, Little Miss Brewing was running five successful locations and tasting rooms in Miramar, La Mesa, East Village, Normal Heights, and Escondido. The plan was to expand in 2020 with a few additional locations, which they had been saving for but hadn’t yet signed any lease agreements.

“We had some cash on hand to try and weather the storm. Our staff didn't. The morally obvious choice is to take care of our staff, our friends, and our family,” said Malkin. “So we made the decision that during this pandemic we would give all the proceeds from to-go orders to our bartenders.”

Little Miss Brewing has a staff of 25, of which, five work in Escondido.

On March 19, the California Alcohol and Beverage Control (ABC) released new, temporary guidelines that allow craft distilleries to accept orders of up to 2.25 liters per person, per day. Distilleries can sell pre-packaged to-go and delivery orders only, which must be transported like any alcohol purchase - in the trunk of a vehicle or unoccupied area of the car. Distilleries must also post these rules somewhere in their bar or restaurant.

With the public health order in place, Little Miss Brewing let all their customers know that 100% of proceeds from any order would be given to their staff, servers, and bartenders. 

“We made sure to post on social media about it asking friends and patrons to support our staff by buying beer and by sharing our posts,” Malkin said. The couple also opened a GoFundMe campaign to raise additional funds for their staff.

And their patrons have stepped up to help. “Quite frankly, we were overwhelmed with the support from the community. Between all of our locations, we have over a thousand shares, and while our numbers are still down, our staff is going to be okay,” said Malkin.   

Little Miss Brewing opened its first brewery in Miramar in June 2016 and its first tasting room at the same location later that year in December. Its five tasting locations opened shortly after, with the Escondido location opening in September 2019 at 123 North Kalmia Street in the heart of the downtown district. 

Brewmaster Guillermo (middle) at Little Miss Brewing’s main brewing facility in Miramar

“We chose downtown Escondido because it's obvious that within the next five years it will be the epicenter of nightlife for inland North County,” Malkin said. “We intentionally chose a small spot to lease, because all we sell is our craft beer. We do offer burger bench delivery to our customers as well.”

They feel Escondido is one of their most successful locations in large part because of the strong Escondido community. “Of all of our locations, the people of Escondido and our patrons in Escondido are the most welcoming and courteous. It's like having all the advantages of a bigger city but with a small town feel,” Malkin added.

That is the exact kind of patron Little Miss Brewing has been hoping for since its inception. “Our focus for all our locations is to be a regular spot for locals,” he said.

They also want to give patrons a reason to make their tasting rooms a place they will continue to frequent and make their local hangout. Malkin explained, “For example, we offer a mug club that is $20 annually. It's popular with over 200 members already.”

Another reason Malkin feels Little Miss Brewing made the right choice opening in Escondido is the way the City supports its business owners - especially now when this pandemic has so many business owners scrambling to stay afloat and understand their rights, responsibilities, and how they can get assistance.

“I've received more useful information about the pandemic and ways to help businesses from the City of Escondido, Escondido Business News,  and the Escondido Downtown Business Association than I have from any other city or entity. I'm thoroughly impressed with the amount and quality of the information being disseminated,” Malkin said.

Malkin added that this comes as no surprise as Escondido’s business success has become a model for future tasting room locations. “Even before the pandemic, we made a decision to try and replicate the success we've had in Escondido for all future locations, focusing on locations that are similar to Escondido.”

In the meantime, all Little Miss Brewing tasting rooms are open from 4-to-8 p.m. daily, selling beer to go, except for the East Village tasting room. Customers who would prefer delivery services should call bartenders Ethan or Jason at 760-805-4611 or 619-781-7580 respectively.

Under normal circumstances, Little Miss Brewing is a regular donor to charities and charity festivals. The brewery often donates kegs to events and nonprofits around town. “We do events with local nonprofits at our tasting rooms including, for example, the Girl Scouts.” But for now, all extra proceeds are going to the brewery’s dedicated staff. 

They plan to continue to donate to local charities once the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Additionally, Little Miss Brewing has plans to celebrate as soon as they can. Malkin added, “When we get back to normal, we are going to throw a customer appreciation/essential business party.”

Subscribe to "Escondido Business Insight" for more stories like this delivered monthly to your inbox.