LUDLOW – Federal officials raised their glasses (figuratively) toasting Vanished Valley Brewing Co., which was recognized as a small business success story on Monday morning.
The Ludlow Brewery welcomed US Small Business Administration officials, US Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and local dignitaries as the SBA celebrates its 69th anniversary this month.
After Vanished Valley co-owners Joshua Britton, Manny Vital, and Sarah and Michael Rodrigues first brewed their beers in a building the size of a two-car garage in 2016, three years later they built a 4,000-square-foot brewery next to the restaurant that once housed the Europe had hosted Black Rock Bar and Grille. The brewery funded its expansion with SBA-guaranteed 504 loans from Freedom Credit Union and Bay Colony Certified Development Corp.
It increased their annual production from 22,000 gallons to 119,000.
A month after the grand opening of the brewery/tavern/kitchen at 782 Center St. in February 2020, the pandemic hit many businesses and crippled them forever.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, which Neal co-wrote, provided $2.2 trillion in economic assistance to companies like Vanished Valley with its Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loans dollars available.
“The PPP loans we’ve secured have helped us tremendously,” said Britton. “We had a very interesting trip and it wasn’t easy at all. We came off the catwalk in our early 20s and then in March and we had to rotate very quickly.”
He added: “The state allowed us to deliver beer door-to-door and our distribution model really worked. Our phone rang continuously.
Vanished Valley has successfully transitioned its operations from planned beers on tap and table service to delivering canned beer and groceries. Its beers, including its flagship New England-style IPAs, Pomona and Watershed, are now available not only nationwide, but also in parts of Rhode Island and New Hampshire.
“The SBA and Freedom Credit Union deferred (loan) payments for us and played an integral part in our survival,” Britton said.
SBA New England Regional Administrator Mike Vlacich recognized House Ways and Means Committee Chair Neal and SBA District Director Bob Nelson for responding to the needs of small businesses as the pandemic hit.
“(They) kept jobs intact and businesses able to stay in place,” Vlacich said. “We couldn’t do this without[Neal’s]skill, ingenuity and know-how. He was the architect of so many key pieces of this unprecedented economic recovery.”
Neal noted how quickly the Democrat-led Congress responded to the pandemic warnings delivered March 11, 2020 by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the President’s chief medical adviser.
“In three months, America has lost 22 million jobs. Speaker (Nancy) Pelosi and I and then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin wrote the CARES Act in eight days—proposed, passed by the House of Representatives, passed by the Senate, and signed by the former President,” Neal recalled. “Two years later, every job is back and there are 11.2 million open positions…that’s an incredible statistic.”
He added, “The HEORES Act, we wrote, and President Joe Biden’s bailout …[put]money in the hands of people who needed it.”