Long Beach Brewing Company - Oceanside, NY
Success Story: Long Beach Brewing Company
Many entrepreneurs overcome the challenges of starting and expanding their businesses by growing them in stages. That’s certainly been the case for Long Beach Brewing Company (LBBC) in Oceanside, NY, which was created by partners Patrick Harten, Brett Blau and Dan Scandiffio over the course of nine years.
During this time, the team also leveraged their personal and professional networks for guidance and resources. Surprisingly, their road to financing began with an event that gained national attention: the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson.” In this interview, Patrick details how he and his partners started LBBC, the successes they’ve had along the way, and their experience working with The 504 Company.
How did you and your partners come up with the plan for Long Beach Brewing Company?
We all love beer and had been experimenting at home with craft brews, sharing our recipes and results. About eight years ago, we started talking about formalizing our ideas by opening a craft brewery.
Dan is the brewmaster and the driving force – his creativity and passion really keep us going when we’re faced with continuous challenges. I also assist with brewing and handle sales, distribution and brand-building aspects. Brett runs the operational side – he excels at management, which has been essential to keeping this dream viable.
You’ve built your business in phases. What has that been like?
It’s been great and exhausting, all at the same time. We had an idea that we were excited about and just threw ourselves into making it happen. We started making plans around 2010 and really put things in motion about three years ago.
We didn’t have a facility or the funding for all the equipment we needed, so we talked to other breweries about brewing and bottling for us. That way, we could get our beer into local bars and stores and start building our brand and following. We also realized that the craft-beer industry is loaded with IPAs (India Pale Ales, a type of beer) and we specialize in lagers. So, in addition to producing high-quality beer, we also found a niche that’s not oversaturated.
That phase launched almost two years ago. Now, we’re building our own craft brewery, with a spring 2019 opening target. It’ll be a sit-down brew pub and people can also take their favorites home. It gives us tremendous control and opens up a new revenue stream while strengthening our brand, which is rooted in our Long Island community.
What are some of the upsides that you hadn’t expected?
The people in this industry are really terrific. We all share a common love – great beer – and we’ve found that the very same people and businesses that are direct competitors have also turned out to be our biggest supporters. For example, the staff at Oyster Bay Brewing Company and Fire Island Beer Co. were incredible, helping us learn how to brew large batches and get into the market.
Also, a really fun aspect is that we’re constantly learning and pivoting to make our products better. For example, we each came into this with recipes we’d perfected at home, but when you scale up recipes, nothing turns out as expected and you have to continuously refine products. One of our favorite home brews started as a porter, then evolved into our Black Lager, which is currently one of our most popular.
What are some of the challenges you’ve encountered?
There have been a lot. We still work at our full-time jobs – I’m an air-traffic controller, Brett’s a film editor and Dan co-owns a pizzeria in Brooklyn. That’s enabled us to take a slower approach because it alleviated some of the day-to-day financial worries, but we all put in at least 60 hours a week.
In addition to the long hours, finding the right location took years because we need a lot of space for brewing and bottling equipment and we also need a spot that has street-level appeal, and real estate in our area is cost-prohibitive for startup businesses. We finally found the perfect location in Oceanside.
We’ve also encountered a lot of challenges that are typical in our industry, but that you don’t really consider until you’re in the thick of it, like getting a liquor license, scaling up production and establishing distribution channels.
How did you find out about The 504 Company and how is this funding fueling LBBC’s growth?
It was clear that we needed funding to grow, so I reached out to people that I’d met through the “Miracle on the Hudson.” I was the air-traffic controller during that event and many of the crew members and passengers and I have stayed in touch.
Several people on board that day worked at Bank of America and some still do. One of them knew about startup loans through Excelsior Growth Fund, which approved our first loan. Through EGF, we also learned about its affiliate, The 504 Company, which has great loans for equipment and commercial real estate. It took time, but our teams at Bank of America, EGF and The 504 Company helped us with the different loans to make it work.
It’s made a huge difference in what we’ve been able to accomplish. Now, we’ve got the funds we need for our physical location, production and distribution equipment, working capital and more. As soon as we get the last pieces in place on the facility, we’ll be ready to hire more staff, too.
What advice do you have for other people who are considering starting a business?
I think one of the most important things that we’ve learned is that you need a great team – and the one you need is probably bigger than you think. We were fortunate that three of us got this underway together and we brought different skill sets to the business. But looking back, having a lender, a lawyer and an accountant working with us from the start would have made a lot of things easier.
So, my best advice is that although you don’t need everything in place before you launch, have people on your side who know what needs to be done and can help make the journey easier for you.