Urban Lodge Brewing Co. Co-Owners Michael Gerrity and Ryan Fagan became friends and brothers-in-law when they married sisters. The two took a brewing class together about five years ago, which is when the idea to open a local brewery began. Urban Lodge Brewing opened its doors August 22, 2019. MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price spoke to the owners about their startup experience.
NAN PRICE: Give us a little background. Have you always been entrepreneurial?
MICHAEL GERRITY: I was always fascinated and encouraged by my mentor, who was a business owner in Ellington, and wanted to learn more about his entrepreneurial journey. He allowed me to sort of start my own business by earning commission and creating my own book of business inside of his business. It was like being an entrepreneur, but I wasn’t dealing with all the HR and other side of things.
I liked what I did, and I learned a lot. But it was never mine. It made me realize I wanted to own my own business and create an environment where I could control the experience.
I naturally gravitated to craft beer, which I’ve enjoyed for a long time. I had worked as a vendor selling various printed products to breweries, and I became fascinated with the industry. Once Ryan and I had been brewing for a couple of years and Ryan perfected his recipes, we started thinking: Wouldn’t this be awesome if we could turn this into a business and create a fun environment for people?
RYAN FAGAN: I was looking to start my own business, too. Once we did research outside of just friends and family, and enough people told us the beer was really good, we thought: Why not go for it? You can talk about a business idea for a long time, but there’s a difference between talking and actually throwing your hat in the ring and trying to figure out.
NAN: Tell us a little about the process of getting started.
RYAN: As we were trying to figure out how to get out beer out there, we originally thought we could just sell it from my porch or out of a shed. But of course, there are zoning regulations. That just shows how naive you are when you first start!
We did some due diligence and filed the LLC December 11, 2017. We realized if we were eventually going turn this into a business, we’d have to show purchases and losses, and we wanted to make sure were documenting everything appropriately.
NAN: How did you chose the location?
MICHAEL: We wanted to be in Manchester because we felt like there’s been a lot of growth and community support for new, local things.
Manchester Town Hall was very accommodating. From there, we were directed to talk to Downtown Development Specialist Tana Parseliti, who was awesome. She was excited that we wanted to be in Manchester and told us about this location on Purnell Place. This was only the second place we looked at. It met our requirements: Good parking and an outdoor space.
Our goal is to keep things local. So, we’ve talked about it doing something special with the restaurants on Main Street. We don’t serve food at the brewery, but you can bring in food or order delivery or takeout from several places. We want people to support the local restaurants. So, we might sell a special stout that’s only available at a particular restaurant to try to create that downtown feel where we’re all united in special way.
NAN: Urban Lodge is the third brewery in Manchester and you are the 93rd in the state. Have you made connections and found mentors within the industry?
RYAN: Yes. Particularly with Labyrinth Brewing Company, which is also here in Manchester. As soon as they found out we were becoming a brewery, they reached out to say they’re here to help and they’d love to do collaborations. It’s been invaluable to have their feedback about their startup experience.
That’s just the industry. Everyone in the state wants to work together. They’re happy to help. That’s what made me want to be in this industry the most—the people.
And the best part is, it’s not competitive. I mean, there is competition because you want to do well, but it’s not at others’ expense. We don’t want each other to fail. We want more people to come to the other local breweries because they’ll be coming to us, too. That’s what beer lovers do. They’ll visit a town and go to all the breweries there.
NAN: What’s next?
RYAN: Right now, we’re focused on building our name and creating a cool environment for people to come and hang out. So, we’re really offering two products—the beer and the experience.
What’s next is, we want to grow. If you don’t grow, you’re going to go backward. We know we have to be flexible. The only thing inevitable is that there’s going to be change.