Source Lunch with … Sam McNulty, Co-Founder and Owner, Market Garden Brewery

What do you see when you think of the artisanal landscape these days?

So it’s certainly competitive. There is a limited amount of storage space in the stores, and it gets crowded. The local craft beer world is very collaborative, but you’re starting to see more bends than five years ago. Now, I always try to make this distinction: there is still a lot of room for brewpubs. But the people who get into distribution, that’s where it’s hypercompetitive. This is where there is a lot of venture capital. And macros are looking for craft beer brands because they see them shrinking their market share. The Bud / Miller / Coors of the world, they want to innovate internally, but very often it’s easier to acquire innovation.

We have heard it here with the acquisition of Platform Beer Co by AB InBev. What do you think ?

Not to mention one deal in particular, I find that every time a multinational corporation purchases a local business, regardless of the industry, I have yet to see a single instance where it has been good for the local community, employees of that company and the brand itself. There are often a lot of promises and then the next thing you know, the business is gone, the jobs are gone or relocated elsewhere. So I guess we’ll see what happens.

How many times have you been approached for an acquisition?

Well I signed nondisclosure agreements so I can’t talk about it.

What do you think will be the trend in the craft sector in 2020?

Closures and consolidation.

So you think we’re approaching that saturation point we’ve been talking about for a while?

I think. Or, in other words, you could consider bankruptcy or Budweiser.

Do you see a market contraction affecting your businesses?

I do not think so. The secret sauce of our business model are our four partners. We are north of 200 employees today. We don’t have any outside investors. And we’re so under-indebted it’s almost comical. But we are very happy this way. We can sleep well at night knowing that whatever happens in the future, everything will be fine.

Why build all your businesses on one street? Isn’t it a reasonable concern that these may all cannibalize each other?

You know, it’s funny, when we opened (McNulty’s Bier Markt) in 2005, people thought we were crazy doing anything in Ohio City because it was a bad neighborhood. Then we opened an Italian restaurant and a wine bar, and they said, “Now you’re really crazy because you’re just going to cannibalize the business that you started at the Bier Markt. Then we opened Speakeasy in the same building and the Market Garden brewery across the street. Same thing. The thought was always, “Why don’t you diversify geographically? “

So why not you?

My experience is actually in town planning. I was an intern in Ohio City 26 years ago with what is now Ohio City Inc., working out the neighborhood and forming a Special Improvement District, which was a new idea at the time. Putting on my town planning hat, my partners and I realized that if we were going to really succeed in attempts to rejuvenate the neighborhood, we had to play the role of real estate developer, neighborhood planner, restaurateur, brewer and also builders. coalition. We are capitalists with a conscience. So as a result, instead of taking the concept of Market Garden and cutting it out – one on the east side, one on the west side, one on the south, and then going to the next town – our approach is to have five different concepts in the same street. And we own our properties, so we’re invested in both the sticks and the bricks and the operations there.

Have you ever thought about expanding more aggressively or building something beyond Ohio City?

So a model is a bar / brewery in different markets and uses it as a welcome base and marketing tool. We are obviously in a street. And we distribute from that home port. The other approach is the rapid growth, the breakneck pace, the race to new markets, the signing of distribution deals and perhaps the loss of quality beer. The model of racing to new markets and rapid expansion, which usually leads to two options: bankruptcy or Budweiser – not referring to anyone in particular. We don’t grow up being 5 miles wide and half an inch thick. Our approach is to be 5 miles deep in our local markets. So it’s just a different strategy, not to say that you are really right or wrong.

What is your growth strategy today?

The growth on the production side is incredible. We have increased four different times in terms of brewing capacity. And we have just extended the distribution to the Toledo market. So right now we’re there, in northeast Ohio, in Columbus, and the adjoining neighboring counties. We have taken a more measured approach than some other brands.

Is there any beer the McNulty brands would never make?

I’m not a big fan of saying never. But I can say that we will never brew a beer with corn syrup.

Terri S. Tomasini