"On the Brix" provides something different

A couple is running a tasting room in Red Cloud, and many say the business is adding to the local quality of life.

Ana and Justin Armstrong run the tasting room called "On the Brix" in Red Cloud. It's a business in the "Moon Block" building near the historic Opera House. "We currently rent this spot from the Willa Cather Foundation," Justin said. "They had historical grants to make this space look like it did a long time ago. That's why you have the ceilings the way they are, and it's trying to be as historically correct as it can be."

The space has been home to many businesses through the years, including a bakery and cafe. Ana and Justin have been running the tasting room for 2 and 1/2 years now. "I decided that in a small community like this, something like this could actually thrive," Ana said. The owners believe the tasting room is thriving, because it offers something different. "When we first opened, we did not want to compete with any other business in town, we wanted this to be a unique experience," Ana said. "We do classic cocktails, we do wines, and the only beers we carry are Nebraska beers," Justin said. "Some of our best customers say that when they come here, they are sitting in their living room having really good drinks brought to them. We take pride in that it's that comfortable."

Justin is a native of Red Cloud, and moved away from the state for a while. Ana and Justin met on the job in Dallas, and Justin eventually came home to work on the family farm. Like other young "returners" in town, Justin is finding that coming home is one of the best moves he and his wife have made, and others are making that move, too. "Our support from surrounding communities has been fantastic," Justin said. "Being surrounded by other small towns, they know they have to travel if they want an experience. And so being a destination, we've found that we have people from all over coming in."

Now, Ana and Justin are putting their energy into helping make the community even more attractive to visitors. They are excited about plans for a new hotel on main street. "That is definitely something we are promoting," Justin said. "We say, don't make a trip to Red Cloud a day trip, make it a weekend." Justin and Ana encourage others to try something new in their hometowns. They say they're excited to offer the tasting room as a way of improving the local quality of life. "Coming to Red Cloud is an experience in itself given that we have Willa Cather," Ana said. "Given the visitors we have, there are a lot of families that come back to Red Cloud for the town festivals, and being able to add a unique space like this hypes that experience a little bit more."