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Franklin County's first beer stube opens in Chambersburg Saturday

April 25, 2013|By ROXANN MILLER | roxann.miller@herald-mail.com
  • Jesse Rotz, left, watches as his business partner, Ryan Richards, pulls a pallet of chilled beer kegs Thursday in the production area of Roy-Pitz Brewing Co. A pub and restaurant are the latest additions to the five-year-old business.
By Kevin G. Gilbert, Staff Photographer

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. — Jesse Rotz and Ryan Richards are living the dream.

The two Chambersburg friends, pals since grade school, have managed to parlay their passion for beer into a lucrative business.

Since 2008 when the Roy-Pitz Brewing Co. at 140 N. Third St., sold its first keg, business has more than quadrupled for the 29-year-old entrepreneurs.

What began five years ago as a small, manufacturing facility housed in what was once a hosiery plant off an obscure alley has emerged as a beer business that’s all the buzz.

“Last year we were the fastest growing brewery in Pennsylvania,” Richards said. “We went from 750 barrels a year to over 2,000 (barrels a year).”

On Saturday, Roy-Pitz will take another step forward when it dedicates Franklin County’s first brew pub at a ribbon cutting ceremony at 11:45 a.m.

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“It’s exciting to see Roy-Pitz take this next step in growing their business,” said Noel Purdy, vice president of the Greater Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce. “Micro-breweries spur economic growth and are a niche that locals and tourists alike can enjoy. Micro-breweries spark development, tourism, artistic expression and even community pride.”

The new, 1,200-square-foot beer stube is above the brewery and can accommodate up to 50 people, Rotz said.

The menu is small but very good, Richards said.

Richard’s brother, Michael, a culinary chef, will prepare the food.

Soft pretzels, hot dogs, paninis and dipping sauces will be served.

“The beer stube is going to be an awesome addition to downtown Chambersburg’s offerings. Locals and craft beer enthusiasts have anxiously been waiting for Roy-Pitz to offer food and entertainment on-site in order to have authentic, local-brewery pub-experience,” Purdy said.

Getting started

It’s a local success story that Rotz and Richards have managed to build in a crippling economy.

It was a huge risk to start up Roy-Pitz in such a (down) economy, Rotz said.

“We wanted to do this, and we weren’t going to give up for any reason,” he said.

“It’s one of those things when times got tough. Out of college we were broke and we had nothing,” Rotz said. “It actually helped us grow our business, because we had no option but to succeed.”

“Ever since high school, we were serious about starting this business,” Richards said.

“It actually started out as a joke, but Jesse and I never took it as one. Even though we kind of let everyone else kind of think it was a joke, we knew it was a serious goal for us.”

With a business goal firmly planted in their minds, Rotz and Richards attended West Chester (Pa.) University, graduating with degrees in business.

After graduation, both wanted to learn more about the brewing process so they worked for two brewing companies — Victory Brewing Co. in Downingtown, Pa., and Twin Lakes Brewing Co. in Greenville, Del.

Rotz and Richards attended the Brewing School in Chicago at the Siebel Institute of Technology earning associate degrees in brewing science.

Richards continued his studies at the Doemens Academy in Germany where he earned an international degree in brewing science.

“After our education and training, we got started on the business plan and raising enough capital through low-interest loans and from private investors,” Rotz said.

They began with an initial investment of about $125,000, which Rotz said has since quadrupled.

By using Rotz’s marketing know-how and Richards’ management skills as well as their combined brewing talents into making what they call “liquid art,” the first keg was produced in 2008.

Rotz and Richards are young and laid back while at the same time smart, savvy businessmen.

“We own the trademark to that slogan (liquid art),” Rotz said. “We consider ourselves artists of beer. It’s not mainstream beer. It’s beer that is brewed for a niche audience of people that want full-flavored beer and locally produced (beer).”

Guerilla marketing

In the beginning, the Roy-Pitz team used what Richards called “guerilla marketing” to get the niche beers’ name out.

“We went door-to-door, handed out bumper stickers, flyers, did free tastings, you name it, we did anything to get our name out,” Richards said.

The hardest thing about getting started was that people were familiar with mainstream beer, but not craft beer, Richards said.

“A lot of people are used to Yuengling, Miller, Coors, Budweiser and that kind of beer. That’s what everyone drank around here for the longest time. So, it was a big challenge for us to at least get people to try our product, because we knew that it would pay off because we believed in the product,” Richards said.

Five years later, Roy-Pitz is sold in more than 20 bars in Pennsylvania, Richards said.

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