WAYNE, Neb. | Greg Ptacek calls himself a crazy idea guy.

Last year, when he sprung his latest, and maybe craziest, idea on his wife, Kelly, while she was six months pregnant with their third child, he was serious. He'd been kicking around an idea about opening his own brewery, and he was ready to take the plunge.

Such a venture, they both knew, would require him to quit a stable job as an economic development director in Neligh, Nebraska.

"I told her I wanted to do it ..." he told her, before adding the kicker, "... and do it in Wayne."

In true entrepreneurial spirit, Ptacek not only wanted to create his own business, but also uproot his family and move.

Sure there's risk involved, but as an economic development director who had worked with so many other people who had started or expanded their own businesses, Ptacek had learned from their successes and gained insight into what it took to get a business off the ground.

He was itching to give it a try himself.

"In the back of my mind I thought it might be fun to come up with a business plan and start my own business," the Osceola, Nebraska, native said.

By this fall, he'll open Johnnie Byrd Brewing Company, the name an ode to his late grandfather, who had a band called the Johnnie Byrd Orchestra that performed for many years in the David City, Nebraska, area.

The brewery is the culmination of three years of ideas that included other possible business ventures.

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Johnnie Byrd Brewing Company

Greg Ptacek talks about plans to brew beer in the Johnnie Byrd Brewing Company, a business he's opening in Wayne, Nebraska. The brewery is named after a band founded by his late grandfather.

"I had thought about other businesses, but none of them had the passion I wanted," Ptacek said.

He had watched a number of rural breweries start up and achieve success. Ptacek didn't know much about brewing beer, but it was appealing. He researched it and began experimenting with home brewing about two years ago.

"It's not that it's my hobby, but I saw a business opportunity," he said.

Some 18 months ago, he sat down and came up with a business plan. And, of course, informed Kelly that he wanted to pursue it. She was a little apprehensive, Ptacek said, until they got a great deal on a loan early this year and had the financing secured.

The idea was in place, but leaving their home in Neligh and moving to Wayne?

"It really fits what we want to do. We wanted to do a neighborhood brewery," Ptacek said.

Plus, both attended Wayne State College, so it felt like home.

The brewery is located in the 1912 Emporium, Wayne's former City Hall that another pair of entrepreneurs recently restored into an antique and consignment shop. The brewery will be inside the former fire hall attached to the building at 117 W. Second St., just a block off the business district. Ptacek, who also has completed work on a master's degree in public administration, left his job in Neligh last month and has been working long hours with his father, Steve, to remodel the space, which will include a tap room that seats 35-40 people, an overflow room that seats 60 more people and a beer garden out front.

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Johnnie Byrd Brewing Company

As an economic development director, Greg Ptacek had helped many entrepreneurs open or expand their businesses. About 18 months ago, he Ptacek developed a business plan to open his own brewery. His idea will become reality this fall, when he opens Johnnie Byrd Brewing Company, a three-barrel brewhouse, in Wayne, Nebraska.

Brewing equipment should arrive next month, Ptacek said, and he hopes to be open in September or October, giving local residents a taste of dozens of specialty beers brewed in the three-barrel brewhouse. He won't be selling food, but customers will be welcome to bring in their own food to enjoy with his beers. Ptacek doesn't plan to bottle or can beer, but in addition to drinking it inside the brewery, patrons will be able to buy it in growlers, refillable jugs to go.

Ptacek and his family, which includes three children age 4 and under, will move to Wayne this month, and Kelly will continue her teaching job in Neligh for at least another year, living with her parents there during the school week.

Amid all the upheaval and hard work, Ptacek said he hasn't second-guessed the decision to open the brewery since the financing was in place.

That doesn't mean doubts don't creep into his mind now and then.

"I have my days where I just look at my wife and ask, 'Why did we do this?' Then there are the days when all the stars line up and there is pure happiness," he said. "When I'm working on concept beers, I think, 'This is my job now, working on brewing a batch of beer.' I keep pinching myself that this is actually my job."

Going to work every day and enjoying nearly every minute of it? That doesn't sound like a crazy idea at all.

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