Business financing helped Tuckerman Brewing Co. expand, create jobs

Chris Sullivan needed a new start. His once-stable maintenance job was cut from full time to about 30 hours a week. A long-term relationship was ending. At age 36, the lifelong Mount Washington Valley resident considered selling his home in Madison and moving to Arizona.

Woman and man holding dog in Tuckerman office
Kirsten Neves and Chris Sullivan, with Stump

Kirsten Neves and Nik Stanciu had taken the opposite route. Both 24, they left New Mexico in the mid-’90s for what they thought would be a winter in Conway. By the time the snow in Tuckerman Ravine melted in spring, so had their plans to return south.

Micro, or craft, beer and ale were becoming more popular across New England, and Nik, a home brewer, had developed a pale ale recipe that their friends really liked. So he and Kirsten decided to launch a brewery.

They created Tuckerman Brewing Co. in March 1997 and, working from a garage on Main Street, sold their first batch of Tuckerman Pale Ale the next January. They sold about 1,000 barrels a year for the first few years, and, after leasing a larger facility, grew to 5,000 barrels by 2010.

But the move was costly and time-consuming, and financially squeezed Tuckerman’s partners. Unable to get a bank loan for more equipment, they felt caught between growing demand and the ability to produce more ale.

The Community Loan Fund saw a profitable company poised to grow (at the time, Tuckerman ale was sold only in New Hampshire), and owners who were both resilient and committed. Beginning in 2010, we made three loans for equipment, including a fermenter and a labeler, while Tuckerman doubled its fulltime workforce from five to 10, including Chris Sullivan. This summer we helped Tuckerman buy a facility with more room for production, as well as for a retail store and pub.

Chris was promoted to Filterer after three months on the bottling line. He is thankful to have landed with a company that offers its employees health and disability insurance and paid vacation. Especially, he says, when he looks at jobs at “the big box stores, where they pay minimum wage and the money goes elsewhere.”

“Kirsten and Nik live in the valley and are creating jobs for themselves and everybody else,” he said. “That’s what community is all about.”

This story was originally published in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund's 2013 Annual Report.