Richmond Hill home to international beer store

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Starting a business from scratch is a tall order.

But imagine being an immigrant, having to deal with unfamiliar laws and regulations, and then creating two businesses and becoming president of a local civic organization.

That is the story of Irishman Michael Butler, who came to Richmond Hill in 1965 from County Louth and has since opened a successful retail and wholesale beer company as well as an air- conditioning and heating business.

“We have hundreds of varieties of beer from around the world,” said Butler, who has offices at 134-11 Hillside Ave. that house his 18-year-old air-conditioning business and 6-year-old beer storefront called Beer Garden.

Butler, who went to school in the New York area, began working in the heating and ventilation business when he arrived in the United States. He said after a few years he had accumulated enough money to open up a business of his own.

Alongside his wife and son, who help him run day-to-day operations at his retail and wholesale store and offices, Butler proudly shows off the aisles of beers that draw customers from Queens and Nassau counties and as far away as North Carolina.

The retail store is open to off-the-street customers who, Butler said, are drawn to the store for its rare selection of specialty beers.

Butler Inc., the official title of the air conditioning, heating and ventilation business, serves both housing and commercial units, he said.

Aside from just running the business, however, Butler also knows where, how, when and who brews the different varieties of beer he sells.

But the slumping economy has started to take a toll on business, Butler said.

“Things are getting considerably serious,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk and many people are leaving the New York area altogether.”

Butler, who is president of the nonprofit Richmond Hill East Businesspersons Corporation, said the tough economic times are hindering his group’s efforts to reach out to the community and recruit volunteers to address social ills. In the past, he said his organization, whose goals are to fund projects for local youth, reduce crime and eliminate graffiti, has partnered with local borough schools.

Already slow business has forced Butler to reduce his total number of employees at both businesses who are “very few.” Overall, said Butler, he anticipates having to work long hours with fewer employees for what could well turn out to be less money.

But the bad economic climate has not put a damper on Butler’s enthusiasm for the beers he sells. This season’s top-seller, he said, is called the Midas Touch, which features such exotic ingredients as saffron, honey and unique grapes and barley.

“I’d say all my clients are happy,” Butler said.

Reach reporter Alex Davidson by e-mail at or by phone at 1-718-229-0300, Ext. 156

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