Brewing Up Cool New Ways to Help Small Businesses

 

You, some friends, a cold microbrew and a hand-tossed pizza: Sounds like a great way to spend an evening, right? Make your way to The Washington Brewing Company for an impressive selection of craft brews and authentic Italian cuisine. This new hot spot is a tasty addition to downtown Washington’s vibrant revitalization. Located in a building that once served as a Studebaker dealership, the eye-catching drinks-and-food destination is a collaboration between John and Angela Burgess and John and Michele DeFede. Both entrepreneuring couples have been popular fixtures on the Washington scene for some time. The Burgesses own both A&M Wine and Beer Supplies and The Washington Winery, while the DeFedes were the proprietors of Upper Crust Italian Bistro before incorporating their restaurant into The Washington Brewing Company.  

 

Making business dreams come true can be tricky sometimes. Often a good ol’ infusion of the green stuff is needed at some point. While John and Angela started A&M Wine and Beer Supplies and The Washington Winery on their own, they needed some funding to acquire and renovate the Studebaker building and purchase the gleaming fermenters that are the heart of the new brewery. We at CHROME are honored that we could play a part in helping The Washington Brewing Company open its doors. After visiting with a host of different financial institutions about financing, John wasn’t finding the right fit. It’s no surprise, really. Most big lenders aren’t that interested in providing loans to small, independent businesses — they focus primarily on closing high-volume loans.

 

Fortunately, John met with Bruce Goodman, CHROME Vice President of Small Business Banking. Bruce listened. He asked questions — then listened some more. He recognized that John, a Navy vet and chemical engineer, had a well-formulated business plan. He just needed a sounding board, advisor and a champion to guide him through the process.  

 

“At CHROME, we really value doing what’s best for the member,” says Bruce. “I think John probably felt that in the initial conversation. We’re unique and wanted to put together a structure that would work for John and for us.”

 

While many Pennsylvania lenders don’t even offer SBA small-business loans, CHROME does. Bruce knew an SBA 504 loan program would give John the flexibility to fund the purchase and renovation of the new restaurant space and equipment for the brewery — which now has five to six beers on tap, including seasonal brews. Most importantly, Bruce believed The Washington Brewing Company would be a big success.

 

“If you brew good beer, people will come. If you have good food, people will come,” he says. “I’ve also been inspired by John’s commitment to other local business owners. He sourced nearly 85 percent of supplies and services from other local Washington businesses. Like John, CHROME loves supporting the people and diverse businesses that make our community a great place to live.”

 

That loyalty was evident one Saturday afternoon when construction was underway in the restaurant and brewery.

 

“I brought a check to John so he could pay one of the crews. The head of the crew told John there was a problem. His bank wouldn’t cash the check that day because it was a Saturday. He was in a bad spot because his crew members really needed to be paid that day. So, I went back to CHROME, cashed the check for the contractor, then took the cash back to him so he could pay his people that same day. He nearly cried because he was so happy and relieved.”

 

Bruce says these are the kinds of moments that remind him why he loves working in small-business lending.

 

“I think my biggest passion is an ability to help make a difference in people’s lives — which is different than wanting to help people,” he says. “Lots of bankers say they want to help people, but with small-business lending you have the ability to really make a difference when things aren’t always easy. I’m sure that’s the way bankers worked in the beginning — trying to make a difference in people’s lives. With CHROME, we still can.”