On February 6th at our annual company meeting, Brewery Founder and Brewmaster, Bill Cherry announced to us, the employees, that we had just become partners in ownership of the company. Switchback is officially the first 100% employee-owned brewery in Vermont via an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan). We could not be any more excited because this means the company will be Vermont-owned forever. It is now up to us, the employees, to carry on with the company's mission to consistently produce quality beer and keep the brewery locally-owned and operated.
So now that we are employee-owned, we are taking this opportunity to dive into the stories of all of our co-owners. We will be delving into each of our worlds and exploring the people that make Switchback, Switchback. Every single employee plays a strong part in our company culture, mission, and values.
Next up: Connie Barrett!
You know, when you work at a brewery, there are some positions that get more publicity than others. Brewers make the beer so usually the public is most interested in them. Owners of any company are used to questions and camera time and marketing and sales teams have their fair share of interviews. But there’s always those people whose jobs, while not always glamorous, are so crucial to a company that it would literally implode without them. One of those people here at Switchback, is Connie.
As is pretty customary in a small company, Connie (and all of us) wear many hats. To give you an idea of just a small snippet of what Connie does, her duties include accounting, payroll, mixed with a little bit of HR, in addition to distribution management aka making sure our distributors don’t run out of beer, tracking our production and reconciling inventory, all wrapped up with a little bit of customer service. And since going employee-owned, Connie is now currently learning the ropes of how exactly an ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) works.
Born and raised in Vermont, Connie had a variety of accounting jobs in a whole bunch of different industries before coming to work at Switchback. From fuel, to high end loudspeakers, home & car audio, construction, to 'made in Vermont' products…the list goes on and on! We are so thankful for the winding path (or switchback!) that, somehow through serendipity, brought her to our brewery. And the story behind how she was hired is pretty classically Switchback. “I interviewed with Bill and Chris and I liked what they had to say. They seemed to like me too. Chris called me back for a second interview to meet the crew. I arrived and was brought to a table (a pallet on top of three kegs) where there was a pile, three layers high, of wings. I met the other (then 9) employees, ate wings, drank beers, then was brought back into Bill’s office where they offered me the job.”
We tracked Connie down when she had a moment to spare to learn more about her and her thoughts on working at Switchback.
What’s your favorite Switchback beer? I do love Switchback Ale, Citra-Pils Keller Bier and Extra Pale Ale but…my favorite is our Roasted Red Ale. Delicious!
What’s your favorite thing about working at a brewery, and more specifically, Switchback? My favorite thing about working at a brewery, aside from great beer, is the atmosphere. There is always something to do and always more to learn. Never a dull moment. What I love about working at Switchback is this crazy family. I love how Bill has really thought through each step and made sure with every growth, the quality of our product is #1 along with making sure the brewery (employees and equipment) can handle the next big step. I love that there is so much to learn, and everyone is so great in sharing their knowledge.
How has Switchback changed throughout the time you have worked here I started work at Switchback five years ago and I was employee #11. We now have just over thirty employees. We were brewing one great brew all year-round (Switchback Ale) and had three Rotating Specials (Dooley’s Belated Porter, Slow-Fermented Brown Ale & Roasted Red Ale). These days we have two year-round brews, our Rotating Specials have more than doubled and every so often we brew a batch of a special Limited Run. When I started, the bottling line was arriving in crates and being put together. We started bottling 22oz bombers once a week, with all the employees (including office staff) helped on the bottling line. Now we bottle several days a week, the office isn’t needed on the bottling line anymore and we bottle both 22oz bombers and our little 12oz stubbies. We now have a Tap Room, where we host all sorts of events and our territory has strengthened to include VT, NH, ME, Upstate NY, MA and RI. Needless to say, a lot has changed!
How did you feel when Bill originally broke the news of going employee-owned and how do you feel now about this transition? That’s the Bill way. He cares so much about Switchback, the beer, the employees and the customers. Right now I am proud to be a part of the Switchback crew of owners.
Cheers, Connie, for all that you do!