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These boys just want to have fun

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Ever so slowly, brothers Michael and Brian McMenamin have built up their pub chain, McMenamins, to 50 locations across Oregon and Washington. Over three decades, they’ve converted crumbling old neighborhoods into historical theme parks and made them profitable.

But profit isn’t the point: it’s having fun. Starting with Oregon’s first brewpub in 1985, the brothers created the McMenamins chain to indulge their passions for art, history, food, drink and conversation.

Example: Edgefield, their 38-acre property near Portland, Ore., was once a slum. Fifteen years and $11 million later, Edgefield consists of a hotel, a winery and pubs that once housed boilers and incinerators. The spread includes a golf course, vineyard, brewery, distillery, concert space and gardens.

From all this and more, McMenamins netted a slim margin of $1.2 million pretax on $72 million in sales. Typically, they’ll allot $3.5 million for a renovation and go $2.5 million over budget to add a Turkish bathhouse. Even held in check by their CFO, a former Deloitte auditor, they call this budgeting practice their “times two.”

It works for them. Once in a while, they think about bringing in partners. But that would require justifying their flights of fancy, and that certainly would not be fun.

“We’d be deemed irresponsible,” says Mike.

— Adapted from “For Fun & (Minimal) Profit,” Emily Lambert,

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