Be Here Now
Writer(s): Jackie Goldsborough
In the purple brick building on the corner of University and Dill Streets is Be Here Now, a recently established Village bar. Outside, bikes are leashed and locked to bike racks. On the back patio is a newly-planted apple tree and growing wheat grass. From the looks of the Village building, Be Here Now is just another bar in Muncie. But, when owner Whitney Lewis opened it more than six months ago, he wanted to have a place that practiced exactly what it preached a sustainable way of life.
Keeping it Green
For Lewis, the new green movement is more than just a selling feature, its a lifestyle.
People who recognize what we are doing know its not something we brag about, its just something everyone should do, Lewis says. It makes sense.
Lewis is a 2005 Ball State graduate with majors in history and psychology; and after graduation, he decided he wanted to be the change he wished to see in the Muncie community. This change included support for bike lanes around Muncie, investments in green technology and grassroots sustainable activism.
After working at Moes Tavern, a bar formally located in the same building as Be Here Now, Lewis wrote a letter to property owner Chris Karamesines describing his frustrations with the direction the Village was going.
Karamesines is the owner of the building Be Here Now is located in; and after being around Muncie for decades, he has seen the area evolve and change. A big change happened in the summer of 2010 when Myles Ogea, owner of many Village buildings and owner of Mylo Inc., lost a foreclosure judgment to the Bank of the West for more than $500,000. Once Ogea was out of the picture, Karamesines knew he had to look elsewhere for tenets. Then he remembered Lewiss letter.
He wrote me a letter a year or two ago talking about his thoughts on the Village and how he had heard about me as a business person, so I kept the letter, Karamesines says. When I locked the door on Myles Ogea, I called Whitney because the building was available.
From there, it was just fate or something, as Lewis put it.
He gutted the building, removing the old and bringing in the new. But Lewis reused as much material as possible. The biggest change after the reconstruction was adding a bike lane outlined with blue tape through the entire bar. For Be Here Now employee Neal Soley, catering to the cycling community is something they never thought about, it is just something that seemed like a no-brainer.
I cant think of anyone who is a part of this bar who isnt a part of the cycling community, he says. Its just natural.
Lewis also scatters blue recycling containers, accompanied by can crushers, throughout the bar.
We separate the trash, glass and aluminum cans. To me, it blows my mind that other bars serve aluminum cans and dont recycle, he says. When you go through 1,000 cans a week, that is like getting a $50 rebate.
But just as Lewis hopes to change the way Muncie looks at sustainability, his bar is also a hub for regional specialty beers.
Keeping it Local
Running the business is more than handing beers to Ball State students. Lewis also develops relationships with brewers from around the Midwest to bring in the freshest, tastiest beers.
One of his biggest frustrations is hearing people complain about how the bar doesnt serve Budweiser or Miller Light. But Lewis shrugs it off, hoping someday they will see the importance in supporting the community.
Many people dont realize that some companies that wrap themselves in the American flag, like Budweiser, are foreign companies, he says. They are not American companies, and any money you spend goes out of the country. If you want to have prosperity and take care of your own people, you need to keep the money here, where it re-circulates.
Lewis sees Muncies potential for what he calls the multiplier effect.
Its like when you spend a dollar at a chain restaurant, and 80 cents of that dollar goes out of the community; but if you spend a dollar at Savages, the Downtown Farmstand or the Blue Bottle, 80 cents of that stays here in the community, he says.
By adorning the north-facing outside wall of Be Here Now with colorful, hand-painted advertisements for local businesses, Lewis is not only promoting local shopping, but every one of those businesses is also one he would personally send a friend to.
Lewis says none of the change can happen without activism.
I think that Muncie is a place that needs change. It is ripe for change and is waiting for change, and they need ideas that lead them, Lewis says.
Soley says he wanted to be a part of something that would make a difference in the community he now calls home, which is exactly why he never hesitated to be a part of the new Village bar.
After receiving his Master of Arts in painting from Ball State in 2010 and working with Lewis at Moes Tavern, Soley says Lewis didnt even have to ask him to be a part of Be Here Now.
I felt like my efforts would be put to good use, Soley says. What we had in the past was like a family, then we got the opportunity to do it again. I dont even think he asked me. It was more like a thing where we show up, and we do what we gotta do.
Green Movement Moving to Muncie
For Lewis, some of the changes he is hoping for are starting to happen, including major moves with the activism of community members.
The Muncie community hears the call for new bike lanes that Lewis and many of his bar patrons are hoping for. Muncie Action Plan, a community organization that hopes to pass plans to conduct major updates throughout the city, discussed the inclusion of bike lanes.
While Muncie has a huge strength in the Cardinal Greenway and the river way, if they decide to invest in a bike lane system, you will see a change in just a matter of years, Lewis says.
Ball State alumnus and Wuhnurth music festival organizer James Nimmer says hes been working with Lewis to bring in regional bands and is impressed with the green efforts hes brought to the community.
As a former Muncie resident, Nimmer understands the importance of change around the city; even after moving away, he hopes to see the community grow greener. One thing Nimmer especially agrees with Lewis on is the importance of establishing bike lanes in Muncie.
The number of cars on the roadways declines, which means less carbon emissions, less money going towards fossil fuels and less erosion to the roads; and we all know this is a constant issue in Muncie, Nimmer says.
But as Lewis puts it, it doesnt matter how small the lifestyle change is to make a difference.
Our motto has been slow and steady wins the race. We all can feel something that we are creating around here, he says. Were just doing what makes sense.