The business was Archie Harmon’s idea, but what came next was hugely Ashley Harmon. It took some convincing for the 16-year veteran elementary school teacher to give up her day job. But once she was in, she was all in.
“Sit back. Relax, and let yourself go.” It’s the first thing you see when you walk into the new Chillax Tap & Co. at 1320 Triad Center Drive in St. Peters. The lyric, from “A Tribe Called Quest,” is painted on the left as you enter—a welcoming message and a soft reminder bidding all who enter to forget their worries of the day and just one of the ways Ashley’s creative genius and limitless energy has made the Harmons craft beer specialty store and tap room irresistible.
The St. Peters location is the second Chillax in St. Charles County. The Harmons opened the first one in Wentzville just nine days before the worst pandemic in American history shut down the world. And still, they made it work. Abiding by the slogan: “The Elevated Beer Experience in a Crafty Environment,” the Wentzville location has been a huge success.
“We were upset for like 30 minutes,” Ashley says. “Then we got busy. We had to get creative. So while the city was shut down, we invited food trucks on the outside. We were deemed essential, because we sold alcohol. We had a ton of to-go orders. It was the word of mouth that got us out there, and we became a community place to hang out.”
Married for 13 years, Ashley said she and Archie know how to “stay in their own lanes.” Archie is definitely the man behind the business, finances and ordering the craft beer that their clientele loves. He searches high and low for the latest and greatest brews. And she is the design and marketing queen. “And we don’t question each other’s paths. My job is to taste beer and promote beer, merchandise and design.”
Both locations continuously rotate their 30 taps of specialty craft variety and allocated beers every three to four days. Both offer canned and bottled beer (also available as mix-and-match 4-and-6-packs to go), wine, seltzers and ciders. Draft beer is available as full or half pours as customers pick their favorites and bring them to the bar, where servers will open and pour them for you at a 20 percent discount. In fact, anything purchased “to go” is offered at a 20 percent discount.
In Wentzville, Chillax encourages its customers to bring in takeout from other restaurants or surrounding food trucks or have food delivered to their venue—a new concept that supports surrounding restaurants and eateries.
But Ashley is offering a new twist in St. Peters, in fact, several. Not only is there a hip hop, and RNB vibe (The Harmons are 80s babies), Chillax Tap & Co. has incorporated food into the St. Peters location by partnering with St. Louis’ own Vails Brothers “Shrimp-Chicken-Fish.” The Harmons also plan to incorporate craft cocktails, bourbons and whiskeys along with wine, sangria, margaritas and vodka tonics.
A whopping 6,000 square feet of party space, the St. Peters store also features live music acts, a craft beer truck with eight taps for rent, side table service, two garage doors that open to an outside area and another patio that doubles as a pet park. The new Chillax Tap and Co. will also offer board games, cornhole, sidewalk chalk and a life-size Connect 4 for kids.
The Harmons have also incorporated a gallery concept into the new location, wherein Ashley commissions local artists. March was National Women’s Day, so Ashley arranged for art exclusively from women with different ethnic backgrounds. The Harmons rotate the paintings—all for sale—every three months. “It’s just a cool contemporary space,” Ashley says. “It fits because it’s an art to make craft beer. We wanted somewhere people could hang out and make ‘Instagramable’ moments.”
Archie holds a Ph.D. in speech pathology from Florida State University and was previously on the faculty at Washington University. Before opening Chillax, he worked at the Center for Advanced Medicine in St. Louis. She studied Elementary Education-Literacy/Curriculum at the University of South Florida and worked in the Wentzville R-IV School District. But after a decade in speech pathology, Archie wanted to be home more and do something different. The two also wanted to leave a legacy to their nine-year-old son, Archie III. So, when he started considering ideas, he drew from his college days.
“Archie loved craft beer,” Ashley says. “So, he went to the library at the bottom of the basement of the University of Florida to learn how to brew beer, because they were broke college students. My husband is a true renaissance man. He’s a forward thinker. He says, ‘I’m going to figure out how to build it, make it or grow it, so I can share it with my friends.”
For Ashley, her charge became learning from her husband. “I went through the ‘Archie Beer School’,” she says. “I learned style, taste and how to brew. I learned the terminology. You have to know how to brew to sell it.”
Ashley was a quick study, and soon took over the creative side. And she rocked it. Today she is not only marketing the two establishments, but also has become known regionally as the Boujee Beer Mom, a blogger and influencer on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and TikTok, and self-described as a “Craft Beer lover who loves to give my opinion.” She also does a guest appearance on FOX 2 News once a month on “Brewsday Tuesday” on the station in St. Louis.
Ashley has a reputation for never running out of ideas or energy. In her words: “Never put us in the category of just a bar.”
"We wanted somewhere people could hang out and make ‘Instagramable’ moments.”~Ashley Harmon, Chillax Tap & Co.