To read our full newsletter please click here: winter-2016-newsletter
To read our full newsletter please click here: winter-2016-newsletter
Voodoo Brewery had their Grand Opening of their Erie location this past weekend and it was a blast! Our relationship manager Jay Murgi attended with his RMA Evan Hayward and had a great time. The event was kept to around 50-60 people to keep it comfortable. As you can see in the pictures, Jay and Evan shared some food and they only had great things to say about it. “The bacon platter was delicious!” Jay exclaimed as soon as I asked him about the food. Both Evan and Jay were extremely impressed with both the food and the beer. If you’re interested in learning more about Voodoo Brewery at their Erie location you can visit their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/VBErie/.
When Matteo Rachocki was brewing beer with his brother, Curtis, in college they dreamed about starting their own brewery. They experimented with different ideas and recipes, loving the creativity that came with creating their own beer. Fast forward to 2010 when Curtis started working at Voodoo Brewery and found out that the business was struggling. Matteo describes, “One day when my brother had come to work there were several shutoff notices and the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County and the Meadville Redevelopment Authority had filed for repossession of the assets.” Noticing an opportunity, Curtis introduced Matteo to the owner of Voodoo and worked out an agreement to become a controlling investor in the company. His brother and a team of family and friends also became investors. Saving a brewery and turning it into an absolute success may never have been what Matteo dreamed, but he can certainly say that he loves the way everything turned out.
I asked Matteo to give me a brief description of Voodoo and what they sell. He responded, “We brew artisanal ales and lagers right here in Meadville, PA. Our beers are “higher gravity” and carry a larger ABV then most other craft brewed beers. Our process begins by selecting only the finest ingredients from all over the globe. We source ingredients from Belgium, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Germany, Canada, and the USA, to name a few. This includes everything from our grain, hops, and yeast, to orange peel, raspberries, cherries, chocolate, and bourbon barrels. No sacrifice is ever made in the quality of our beer to save time or money. We firmly believe the purest and best ingredients make the best beer. We operate on a steam-jacketed 10-barrel (310 gallon) copper brew house manufactured by the Pub Brewing Company. We currently have four 10-barrel fermenters, one 20-barrel fermenter, and six 10-barrel brite tanks. Additional holding capacity is achieved through the use of bourbon barrels that we age some beer in. We currently have 80+ barrels in use from multiple distilleries.” This is a far-cry from where the company was when Matteo became the owner in 2012. For those interested in learning more about the exact beers that Voodoo Brewery has to offer, I have listed out some of their more popular brews. Voodoo brewery is known for their beer, Cowbell, which is a double chocolate oatmeal stout on nitro. Voodoo also has very popular IPAs, such as their Hoodoo which has a citrusy taste with not as much of a bitter aftertaste. Voodoo makes a point of creating craft beers that have different tastes to them so that you’re always getting a unique experience. Most of their beers are somewhere between 7 and 9.5 percent alcohol content.
On Saturday July 23rd, the Oak Arbor Grille in Bridgewater, PA was celebrating a big achievement. It was their grand opening, and I was lucky enough to have a front seat – literally. I arrived at 5:30 and was seated immediately in the large dining room in full view of the bar. The well-stocked bar had all of the classic drink options that you could want while not becoming overwhelming. The restaurant was casual and inviting with an industrial décor. There were seats at the bar as well as booths and regular tables, which were inside and outside on the beautiful patio. While the grand opening was going on there was also a high school reunion happening in their private room, so it was quite a busy night. Even though they were busy the restaurant didn’t feel crowded or uncomfortable, it was a very relaxing atmosphere. Our waitress came over quickly and was incredibly kind, a consistent smile on her face. As we waited for our drinks I started to notice a theme that I would continue to be aware of all evening; everyone knew each other. There were very few groups of two, most of the groups there were bigger and were socializing with other groups. I also began noticing that whenever someone would walk in they would always be waving to someone they knew and someone would come up and grab them. It seems as though this is a neighborhood hangout where truly “everyone knows your name.” At 6:00 the band, the Vince Anthony Trio, began to play and they were scheduled to play until about 9:00. The band played jazz outside on the patio on the warm summer evening. Once my meal arrived, a burger that was cooked exactly as I asked with a side of fries, I was very pleased. While I was eating I was checked on by my waitress more than once and also checked on by a different waiter. It was obvious that making sure their customers are comfortable is a high priority for the wait staff. As the night continued I found myself looking through the three huge windows that showed the view overlooking the Beaver River. Since it was such a wonderful evening there were boats on the river and the view was spectacular. The evening seemed like a good night for the Oak Arbor Grille.
I am lucky enough to have had the chance to speak with one of the owners, Bill Sluder, about his experience starting Oak Arbor Grille and his thoughts on the opening. Bill, and his partner Luke Boehm, have been neighbors for almost 30 years. As Bill describes it, “One day we sat down and decided to go into this venture together over a glass of wine.” When Bill was younger he actually bartended at the Oak Arbor Grille before he and Luke bought and renamed it. Before he started the Oak Arbor Grille, he was managing restaurants and bartending for many years. When I asked Bill what his motivation was to open this restaurant he said, “I’ve always been in food service and this was an opportunity I just couldn’t say no to. I see the potential in this place and this business.” His goal for the Grand Opening was to get all of the remodeling done, and while they didn’t get it all done, Bill couldn’t be prouder of the splash they’ve made. “The grand opening was amazing… it was the busiest we’ve ever been. We had no issues even though it was our first night with live entertainment and we had our first event in the banquet room. It was the perfect grand opening.” I wanted to see what Bill’s goal was for the Oak Arbor Grille and he knew exactly what to tell me. “I want it to be a destination restaurant.” There’s a revitalization of the area coming with the cracker plant that is moving in soon right down the street. Bridgewater is going to be turning around and Bill wants the Oak Arbor Grille to be a big part of that. Luke and Bill have done some great renovations to the restaurant to make it feel better. They’ve painted the entire interior as well as placed new hardwood in the dining room. They increased the seating on the patio as well as built on the aesthetics of the place and made it less cluttered than it used to be.
I spoke with Bill about his experience with Enterprise Bank and his relationship manager, Joe Novitski. “Joe’s been great. This is the first time buying a business of this kind and he was there to help every step of the way.” Bill prides himself on being straight forward and honest, and he can honestly say that he highly recommends Enterprise Bank and Joe Novitski. My last question for Bill was what his advice was to those looking to start a restaurant. “Don’t!” he laughed, “Owning a restaurant is more of a lifestyle than a job.” Bill explained that this not a normal 9-5 job, and it is a major step to take in your life. If you aren’t willing to commit to being there whenever you are needed, it’s not something you should pursue. “It’s not something to be taken lightly.” On that note, I could tell that Bill cares deeply about this place and has a strong connection to it. He cares about the attitudes of his staff and the attitudes of the customers that come there.
After I spoke with Bill Sluder I went to go find his relationship manager, Joe Novitski, to ask him a few questions about working with Luke and Bill. I asked Joe what his first impression of Luke and Bill was and Joe smiled at the question. “They had a sense of community, they wanted to open this restaurant because they liked where they lived.” I got the impression that Joe knew that Luke and Bill were genuine right off the bat. Joe also told me that Luke frequented the restaurant often before he owned it and came to Joe with a plan to turn this into a successful business. Luke and Bill bought the restaurant on June 10th, 2016 and have been able to turn the place around fast enough to have a successful grand opening! Of course, I had to ask Joe the most important question, how is the food? “It’s very good. You get good sized portions… it tastes very good.” Joe got connected to Luke and Bill through the mortgage broker Tom Kuban, with Ace One Mortgage. Luke and Bill were working with Tom to create a package to purchase the building and the restaurant. Tom and Joe had done work together for a long time and Tom knew that Joe was the right choice for the project. Joe helped Luke and Bill finance the buying of the property and the renovations. While the process was long, 6 months, Joe thinks of his time working with Luke and Bill as very positive. “It was great working with both Luke and Bill, they’re very easy to work with and get along with. They’re very passionate about the restaurant and they want to see it succeed.” Being able to go to the Oak Arbor Grille and see the initial success of the restaurant makes Joe feel very proud. “It’s the best part of being a lender… when you help people realize their dreams.” Talking to Joe you can see that working with people is something he loves doing and he genuinely cares about his clients.
If you’d like to find out more about The Oak Arbor Grille you can visit them at http://www.facebook.com/OakArborGrille or call at (724) 774-0400.