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ShinyTop is thriving

Downtown business has expanded with patio, pizzeria

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Shiny Top Brewery co-owner Nate McCubbin, at left, samples one of their brews as server Sabrynn Ulrich holds onto an Italian Stallion pizza. Todd McCubbin, co-owner, waits patiently for his own beer and slice of pizza.

Three years ago when brothers Todd and Nate McCubbin looked out the front window of their newly opened brewery on Central Avenue near City Square Park, they saw a very different picture of main street in Fort Dodge.

“We have been looking out this window for over three years,” said Todd McCubbin, co-owner of ShinyTop Brewing, 520 Central Ave. “And when we opened, there was Lily Grace (antique store) and an open warehouse, and Dave Madsen’s Lifestyles Furnishings was an older building with an ’80s front on it. Since then Lifestyles Furnishings has been updated, Troy Schroeder (Memories in Focus Photography) moved in across the street, and Edward Jones (Gabe Pettit) redid their building.”

And when the brothers, both Fort Dodge natives, turned back around and looked at their own building at the time, it was the half the size that it is today.

Since opening in May of 2016, a patio was added on the north side of ShinyTop in 2017. The brothers also purchased space that used to occupy the Fort Dodge Cheesecake Lady. That space was used to add a larger stage for live entertainment, additional tables, chairs and a kitchen for a pizzeria.

The pizzeria opened in July of 2018.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Brothers and Shiny Top Brewery co-owners Todd and Nate McCubbin pose with their collection of autograped guitars.

“We have done so much here turning it from an old strip club to what it is today,” Todd McCubbin said, referring to the original space the brothers purchased which used to be home to Touch of Class, an adult entertainment bar. “It has changed so much. The clientele is different. It has completely changed what this is and what people think of this part of town, and it gets better and better all the time.”

Nate McCubbin, co-owner and operational manager of ShinyTop, admits the expansion wasn’t really planned from the beginning.

“We weren’t ready to expand, but some things you just have to say yes to,” Nate McCubbin said.

Todd McCubbin added, “We had this plan put together three years ago to build a little brewery — something intimate, somewhere where the music wasn’t real loud and be able to sit and have a conversation. As things progressed the former tenant here (Cheesecake Lady) moved out and the space became available, and we punched a hole in the wall.”

The existing kitchen was made into a pizzeria.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen
Musician Hawk McIntyre plays on a Thursday night at Shiny Top Brewery.

Todd McCubbin said the dough is made from scratch almost every day.

“We hired three chefs from Iowa Central that went through the culinary program,” Todd McCubbin said. “We both (Nate McCubbin and Todd McCubbin) went through Iowa Central and wanted to support them.”

ShinyTop employs between 15 and 20 people.

Nate McCubbin said he believes it’s getting more difficult to find employees.

“I am finding that people are getting second jobs here so only want to work one or two nights here,” Nate McCubbin said. “I would say a dozen people have one or two jobs.”

In terms of the pizza, the chefs use ShinyTop beer for the dough, according to Nate McCubbin.

Todd McCubbin said initially he planned to use frozen vegetables for the pizza, but that idea didn’t last long with the chefs.

“They came in here and threw the frozen peppers away,” Todd McCubbin said.

“We have our own sauce,” Todd McCubbin said. “And any ingredient we can make ourselves, we do. Every day they are in there cutting up the peppers, cutting up the onions.”

The top sellers include the Jalapeno Popper Pizza and Chicken Alfredo Pizza.

Todd McCubbin likes the Margherita Pizza.

“I don’t think anyone else in town sells that,” Todd McCubbin said. “It’s named after Queen Margaret. It was the first pizza ever named.”

The Margherita Pizza has fresh mozarella, fresh basil, and red sauce.

Another one of Todd McCubbin’s favorites is the Mushroom Ricotta pizza, which features a mushroom sauce and ricotta cheese.

Every week ShinyTop has what they call its weekly pizza.

And one of the weekly pizzas has become so popular, Nate McCubbin said it’s going to appear on the permanent menu.

That pizza is called the Italian Stallion, which is topped with ham, salami, pepperoni, banana peppers, oil and vinegar.

And ShinyTop still offers a wide selection of brews on tap to help wash down the pizza.

Nate McCubbin said the Axe and Ladder, which is a jalapeno ale, has emerged as a top seller.

“We first did it as a fundraiser for the Fort Dodge Firefighter’s Association,” Nate McCubbin said. “And now people are very upset if it’s not on tap.”

Prior to starting ShinyTop, Todd McCubbin, a U.S. Army veteran, said the first beer Nate McCubbin and him tried to make was inspired from some beer he had tasted while stationed in Europe serving the U.S. military.

“The first beer we made ever was the worst Hefeweizen you’ve ever had,” Todd McCubbin said. “I was stationed in Germany for three years in the ’90s and the beer I thought it was so good over there that we had to try it here and that it would be as good — but it wasn’t.”

The brothers continued to home brew after that first concoction, though. And eventually they landed on some flavors that satisfied.

“Several years later he’s giving the beer away to friends and people said you should start a brewery,” Todd McCubbin said of Nate McCubbin.

ShinyTop opened with three beers on tap — an amber ale, pale ale, and oatmeal stout.

Now the brewery will keep about 10 beers on tap at any given time.

“We rotate them in and out,” Nate McCubbin, a former corrections officer, said. “Bring in other craft beers. We have trouble keeping up here, so that’s another reason we don’t distribute. We can’t keep up here, let alone supply others.”

While sipping a handcrafted beer or munching on a specialty pizza, customers are often treated to live music at ShinyTop.

“We have a larger music venue than what we had before,” Nate McCubbin said. “We first started live music in March of 2017.”

“And we have had a live band here every Thursday since, including Thanksgiving,” Todd McCubbin added. “Whatever it takes.”

Now, ShinyTop features live music every Tuesday and Thursday, and on select weekends.

Bands such as Lone Tree Revival, The Kriss Karr Band, Salty View, and Brutal Republic have taken the ShinyTop’s stage.

Nate McCubbin said Shelly Bottorff with the Fort Dodge Fine Arts Association is ShinyTop’s booking partner.

“We couldn’t do it without her,” Nate McCubbin said.

Signed guitars and albums decorate the walls.

“ACDC, Ted Nugent, Brett Michaels, Jason Aldean, signed gutiars,” Todd McCubbin said. “Most of which came from charity events.”

The most recent addition? An Alan Jackson signed guitar that was purchased during the Kayla Jones Memorial Scholarship event.

Signed albums at ShinyTop include: Head East, Johnny Cash, and Queen.

Todd McCubbin, who is also a realtor with Kesterson Realty, reported that about 1,000 people enter ShinyTop’s door per week.

The brothers said they are enjoying the business venture, but have had their share of tribulations.

“This addition was tough,” Todd McCubbin said. “It was over budget, we were both at our wits’ end and somehow we got it done. We have laughed together, we’ve cried together. We’ve hated each other, we’ve loved each other.”

“And we never agree in the beginning,” Nate McCubbin said.

The struggles date to their childhood.

“He broke my pinewood derby car,” Nate McCubbin recalled. “I had the championship car and he broke the wheel off.”

Todd McCubbin’s version of events is a little different.

“It was an accident,” Todd McCubbin said. “That’s my story.”

But Todd McCubbin said in the end they can work things out.

“Our saving grace is that neither one of us can hold a grudge,” Todd McCubbin said. “We can talk it out. We will yell — go back and forth. But at the end of the day, we come to a solution.”

The addition of ShinyTop and other business near City Square Park have helped revitalize that area of downtown, according to Todd McCubbin.

“We are really pleased with the developments and updates,” Todd McCubbin said. “There wasn’t a reason to come to this side of central for the longest time. It’s aesthetically pleasant.”

Nate McCubbin added, “We have a great view of The Square. There have been a lot of events down there lately, where there wasn’t any.”

Todd McCubbin said he and Nate McCubbin are dedicated to helping to improve the community.

“It’s a great community with great people,” Todd McCubbin said. “People are willing to invest in Fort Dodge again and make it a great city.”

ShinyTop recently announced it will be open on Monday through Saturday.

Nate McCubbin hinted at another possible expansion for ShinyTop, but wouldn’t elaborate on those specific plans.

“We never want to be comfortable where we are at,” Nate McCubbin said. “Once we are comfortable it’s time to do something else. As opportunities present themselves, it’s time to jump on them.”