Franklin Park bar has brews that may be news to you
You can try to order a bland American-style light lager at HopScotch, but co-owner Jay Chavda will offer you a sample of one of the other more interesting beers he has on tap. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 28, 2013 6:26AM
FRANKLIN PARK — A deliveryman wheeled several kegs of beer into HopScotch, 9743 Franklin Avenue, last Wednesday afternoon.
“We have a Wookey Jack, a black IPA from Firestone and a Snow Day,” he said, before asking owner Jay Chavda to sign an invoice.
If you’ve never heard of those beers, then Chavda is succeeding. Along with partner Rikin Patel, he opened HopScotch in late October, in the former DJ Nightspot space.
“It’s almost like an educational bar,” Chavda said. “You get to learn about the whisky or beer you’re drinking. Who makes it, why they make it, what I like about it. It’s a good stepping stone for people who are new craft beer drinkers or new whisky drinkers.”
If HopScotch is not your typical suburban bar, than Chavda is not your typical bar owner. He was born and raised on a farm in Gujarat, the westernmost state of India.
“It was a village of 5,000 people,” Chavda said. “Electricity was only on for about three hours a day. There was a phone downtown, not in anybody’s house. I never saw a TV until I came to the U.S.”
His father studied electrical engineering at Texas A&M University and moved his family to Addison, Ill., when Chavda was eight. He completed high school in Addison and later studied economics at the University of Chicago.
It was during college that Chavda discovered non-mainstream beers. Around the same time Patel, whose father owns several liquor stores, turned him on to Scotch whisky.
In 2010, his senior year at college, he competed to be a Rhodes scholar.
“When you don’t know what to do, stay in school,” Chavda said. “I was one of the finalists, not a Rhodes scholar by any means.”
Instead he joined a new venture capital firm in Chicago where he did everything from chief financial officer to analysis to making phone calls. At the age of 25 he started his own venture capital firm, found investors and started HopScotch as the firms first investment.
Patel has the contacts in the industry and procures the beers and whiskeys. Chavda handles the business side and works on attracting new customers.
“I’m not worried about retaining customers,” Chavda said. “It’s the initial acquisition of customers.”
For those unfamiliar, craft beers are brewed in smaller quantities by smaller brewers that tend to be concerned with innovation and quality. They may offer stronger flavors, like dark ales, or more seasonal variety, like pumpkin ales in the fall.
Chavda compares it to the auto industry.
“At a big car company there is an assembly line process where they know where everything goes,” Chavda said. “Then a company comes along and builds a special truck for one client. That takes more time, energy and money.”
HopScotch offers 18 beers on draft and another 54 in bottles, according to its website, though it’s working toward 100 beers. There’s Miller and Heineken but there’s also 5 Lizard, Left Hand Milk Stout, Angry Orchard Apple Ginger and Old Fezziwig Ale.
“Someone comes in and orders a Miller Lite, I serve it and also a couple samples and say you might want to try these,” Chavda said. “I try my best to make your mind open.”