Meet Your Merchant: Competitive nature 'breeds success'

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealJim Phalan opened High Sierra Brewing Co. in December of last year.

Shannon Litz/Nevada AppealJim Phalan opened High Sierra Brewing Co. in December of last year.

Jim Phalan calls himself a risk taker - especially now that he has opened three restaurants and a brewery in under three years.

Phalan, 35, a former professional swimmer, opened High Sierra Brewing Company in December inside the former Doppelgangers, 302 N. Carson St. He's remodeled the location, added a new menu and retained brewmaster Joe Renden.

"Swimming over those years taught me one thing: Don't give up. Be competitive," Phalan said. "It doesn't mean you have to be cutthroat, but you have to be competitive because competitiveness breeds success."

Phalan's first restaurant was the Firkin and Fox, which opened in downtown Carson City in 2008. The restaurant is part of a chain of English-style pubs, based in Markham, Canada. He eventually opened another location, the Firkin and Hound, in Visalia, Calif., and last summer the Firkin and Wolf in south Reno. (He's also planning on becoming the West Coast franchisee for the company.)

"Without the Firkin and Fox I wouldn't have been able to do any of these," Phalan said.

Since taking over the 11,000-square-foot space in October, Phalan has remodeled the interior, dumped the nightclub theme and erected a new sign outside that reads "Brewery" in white neon lights.

Today, the dining room sports a bright coat of paint, more lighting and refinished tables.

"We added a lot of lipstick to this old girl," he said.

The idea this time around is to accentuate the brewery, Phalan said. The menu also features pizzas, pasta, sandwiches and burgers.

Phalan said High Sierra will host acoustic nights on Tuesdays, karaoke on Wednesdays, local blues bands on Fridays and a service industry appreciation night on Sundays. On Thursdays, all draft beers are $2 all day and night.

Last Friday evening before heading to the Firkin and Fox for its third anniversary party, Phalan was sitting at one of the tables inside the High Sierra Brewing Company with a pint of Seamus O'Faolian Irish Red Lager, one of the beers brewed there.

"I was by no means looking to do this location," Phalan said. "I think what happened with this location, there was a rumor at some point that anybody who wanted to come and take the brewery equipment at their expense could take it. I came over here, like, running, and I told the owners I was interested."

That was June 2010 and by December he was reopening the brewery.

Phalan grew up in Carson City and returned to it before opening the Firkin and Fox. He had been living in California running a company that installed wireless Internet networks for resorts, which he sold in 2007 to start his restaurant business.

Since then thing have just gotten busier for Phalan.

"I'm married to my phone; my wife wants to throw it down the toilet, she can't handle it," he said with a smile. "I'm lucky I have a lot of good people working for me, it makes my life much easier."

The plan now is to brew beer for other Firkin locations in the United States and eventually the company's Canadian restaurants, too. He said business could be busier, but he's pleased with the restaurant and brewery so far.

It's a process that Phalan, one of six children, has come to relish.

"I'm the biggest risk taker of them all," he said. "If you're going to do it, make sure you give it 150 percent."


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