Five Questions with Stephen Savage from 1000 Spruce: Wheelhouse & Start Bar

Five Questions with Stephen Savage from 1000 Spruce: Wheelhouse & Start Bar

At Atomicdust, we’re lucky to partner with brilliant business owners and marketing professionals. Our clients and partners span various industries — from healthcare, to restaurants, to professional services and consumer goods — and with each project, we learn as much from them as (we hope) they do from us.

This time around, Stephen Savage shares his approach to marketing and what he’s learned opening (and closing) businesses. Savage and his team at 1000 Spruce are the brains behind the wildly successful Wheelhouse and Start Bar establishments in downtown St. Louis.

How do you approach marketing? What’s your marketing philosophy? 

We think marketing is a very important aspect to our business but until recently, have always done it internally for the most part. Of all the things we do for Wheelhouse and Start Bar, our marketing has not been the strongest and we are in the process of trying to change that  by hiring a full-time marketing director.

We are big believers in leaving things to the professionals, but for some reason held on to our marketing internally for the longest time. After working with Atomicdust on the branding for Start Bar, we knew it was time to make a change and hire someone full time. We also decided to finally invest in a good brand kit for Wheelhouse.


What has been your most successful or favorite marketing effort? Why do you think it was successful / a favorite?

Definitely hiring Atomicdust for Start Bar marketing and branding. (Kind of funny since Atomicdust is the one asking me these questions, but at least it’s not that hiring Atomicdust was the most unsuccessful!)

I think it was successful because the scope of work was genuine and made specifically for Start Bar, instead of the typical cookie-cutter plan that most marketing companies do for every business that approaches them. The marketing and branding for Start Bar was very real and tailored for the business and industry.

Start Bar branding Team Meeting

On the flip side, what is the biggest risk you’ve taken? What did you learn from it?

After opening Wheelhouse Clayton, our original and now closed location, we hired a social media company to take over our content creation and posting. At first it was incredibly generic and essentially the same thing they would do for any bar or restaurant.

After discussing our dissatisfaction with them, they tried to tailor it to us and went over the top. All of my friends and family immediately knew it was not us posting and not real. We took it back and never really gave it up to another company again.

I learned that if it does not feel right and like a good fit to not force it. I also learned to not sign a long-term marketing contract without knowing that company is the perfect fit. I also learned, not marketing-related, that you must be just as good (if not better) at closing businesses as you are at opening them.

What do you think is the most significant marketing challenge facing your industry today?

The biggest challenge in bars and restaurants is not annoying the customers with too much marketing.

What is the most helpful business book or resource you’ve come across?

It’s not specific to marketing, but our management group read Traction and follow their management program.

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Danielle Hohmeier

As Senior Marketing Manager at Atomicdust, Danielle Hohmeier develops focused and effective social media and content marketing strategies for clients. This includes identifying the audiences, appropriate channels and key content categories, and finding SEO and SEM opportunities.

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