Sunday, March 7th, 2021

Shopper Client Stories


Where "being decent' is a culture

by Rob Lauer

The Decent People Taproom staff: (from left) Michelle Loud, Donna McCullough, Todd Walsh, Wesley McCullough, Chuck Horigan and Eric Langborst.   Photos by Michele Thompson

The Decent People Taproom staff: (from left) Michelle Loud, Donna McCullough, Todd Walsh, Wesley McCullough, Chuck Horigan and Eric Langborst. Photos by Michele Thompson

It all began with three friends- Wesley McCullough, Todd Walsh, and Eric Langhorst- who shared a love of beer.

"We went from just enjoying beer to realizing we could make it ourselves," Wesley recalls. "So, we tried our hand at brewing."

"At the time, Wes and I were working together for someone else," Todd remembers. "We wanted to start our own business- and thought a brewery was a possibility. We began dreaming about the kind of culture we'd want that business to have."

"We'd all had bosses who were jerks," Eric adds. "We thought it doesn't take much for people to be decent to their employees. At the end of the day, it all comes down to treating others with respect. There's a way to do business, manage people, and prosper without being a jerk."

"So, we came up with the name Decent People Taproom," Wesley says.
Located in the Harborview area of Suffolk, Decent People Taproom offers guests the freedom to explore a wide variety of local craft brews in a comforting environment with a knowledgeable, friendly staff to guide them. Using an innovative self-pour system, guests pay by the ounce to try regional craft brews, ciders, and wines.

"I introduced Wes to the self-pour technology," Eric shares. "I've spent seven or eight dollars at breweries on a pint that I thought was only so-so. But with self-pour, I can sample as much or as little as I like and only pay for what I pour. Once our guests check in, the power is in their hands to pour as they wish."

Chuck Horgian has been on staff at Decent People since the day that the taproom opened. His love of craft beer first drew him to the job, but the taproom's guiding philosophy is why he stays.
"The reason for creating this restaurant was to have a business where we would be working with and for decent people," Chuck Horigan smiles. "When I came for my job interview, Wes, Todd, and I talked about our love of good beers. I took the job to make a little extra money, but it has come to mean so much more to me.  I really enjoy talking to people about beer and making recommendations. We have such a great selection, and it's constantly changing. There's always something new to try. With the self-pour system, they can pour as small a serving as they want, and if they like it, pour more."

"Don't feel shy about trying something new," Todd adds. "Our people will answer your questions. We're beer lovers, not beer snobs."

"What do they have at a beer fest?" Chuck asks. "A great selection of distinct beers and a lot of good food.  At Decent People, every day is a beer fest."

Decent People's delicious menu includes meats that are smoked in house and dressings that are hand-mixed. Overseeing its preparation is Wesley's mom, Donna McCullough.

"The menu has evolved based on what our customers wanted," Wesley shares. "We've worked with my mom to create some great food offerings.  I feel we're really hitting out stride."

"If you came when we first opened, come back- and come hungry," Donna says. "Give us your feedback, and tell us what you'd like to see on our menu."

Impressive beer wall

Impressive beer wall

"Being decent is a lifestyle, not just a logo, and it costs nothing at all."
 - Michelle Loud

In addition to local brews, ciders, wines and great food, Decent People now offers local spirits.
"Offering spirits from local distilleries has really rounded our culture of supporting local businesses," Eric states. "I really enjoyed putting our new bar together, and it'll be good when, after COVID, people can actually sit at it."

Like other businesses, Decent People faced a lot of challenges when the COVID pandemic broke in March. Fortunately, Wesley, Todd and Eric had hired Michelle Loud as the taproom's general manager in February. With a 32-year career in bar management, Michelle proved to be a godsend when the pandemic began.

""Michelle is a wonderful, personable manager, and was really creative when the challenges began," Wesley explains. "We offered an extensive carry-out menu, and the community was unbelievably supportive."

It is during times like the pandemic that business owners have an opportunity to show their decency. True to their founding philosophy, Wesley, Todd and Eric took care of their employees.
"When the COVID pandemic started, they tried to keep everyone working as much they could," Donna shares. "They even gave everyone a little bonus for hanging in there. "

"Later, when we were able to reopen the dining room- with social distancing and reduced seating capacity, our clients were right there," Wesley continues. "It all goes to show, "If you take care of people, they will take care of you.'"

Michelle agrees. "We have phenomenally loyal guests. In 32 years of management, I've never seen anything like it.  They know who we are, they know the owners, and they are at the root of everything that we do."

"We are so grateful to them," Eric adds. "In this day and age, when people have so many choices, we have a lot to offer. Even if beer isn't someone's thing, we offer wine, spirits, food and, of course, the atmosphere."  

The atmosphere at Decent People is what impressed Michelle the first time she came to the taproom.

"I feel like I've found a home here," she says. "The owners are amazing, down-to-earth good guys who've created this wonderful restaurant. Their motto- 'Be Decent'- isn't just a motto; it's a culture. These days, we lose track of the decency- little things like respecting your elders, opening doors for people, and helping someone to the car. I'm "old school' when it comes to those values, and so is Decent People Taproom. We're the local home town pub that people walk in and everyone there knows them- a place where everyone can slow down from the frantic pace of the world.

"Decent People Taproom is a gem, hidden in Suffolk," Michelle concludes. "People need to experience it for themselves. It's not just a taproom. It's a family, it's a culture. Being decent is a lifestyle, not just a logo, and it costs nothing at all."

Decent People Taproom

5140 River Club Dr.
Suffolk, VA 23435