On a warm afternoon, you might find 30-40 people hanging out at the corner of Poplar and First streets, talking, laughing and enjoying a beverage.

The draw is Just Tap’d, a small business launched last year in downtown Macon. With 64 beer taps, more than 500 brands of bottled beer, and growlers, the bar and its sister establishment a block away, Ocmulgee Brewpub, are among the new businesses revitalizing a once-blighted downtown.

It “has helped redefine the image of downtown,” Macon Mayor Robert Reichert said. “They put out their wrought-iron tables and chairs every morning and by late afternoon, especially on pretty days, people are buzzing around that corner.”

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert

Macon Mayor Robert Reichert

Veteran entrepreneur Jeff Kressin opened the first Just Tap’d in Warner Robins in 2013. The next year, Macon-Bibb County officials approached him about opening a second location there, which he did. In December 2016, he opened the Ocmulgee Brewpub, serving beer brewed in-house and a more extensive food menu.

The University of Georgia Small Business Development Center office in Macon was instrumental in launching the brewpub, Kressin said. Macon SBDC director Josh Walton helped him and his son Nate Kressin acquire funding for the project, develop a financial plan and connect with other downtown business owners. Nate attended SBDC courses to hone the skills he needs to manage the business day-to-day.

“If you’re a startup, the SBDC is like a gold mine,” Jeff Kressin said. “Business downtown would have a much higher probability of success if they tapped into (the SBDC) a little more.”

Macon native Courtney Carr returned home after graduating from UGA in 2016. Now working at Just Tap’d, she is amazed by the changes that occurred downtown while she was away.

“I can’t think of a time since I’ve been back that it’s been boring to be down here,” Carr said. “Just Tap’d drew college students. It drew adults and they could bring their children because it’s family friendly.