Building Business: Bad Martha Farmer’s Brewery
“I had designed several barns with a group of Amish men from Lancaster, Pennsylvania,” Ahearn says, “so I brought them into the mix to build the timber-framed structure.” The three Amish carpenters pre-cut all of the pieces of the building in Lancaster, and then had everything delivered to the Vineyard for assembly. Once the Amish men arrived on the island for the build, Ahearn says they had the barn standing within three days, and within three months the brewery was completed. “They transformed the place,” he says, “working from sunrise to sunset. It was unbelievable.”
And the Amish men—clad in their straw hats and suspenders—worked with no nails or saws, only pegs and dowels, and a 50-pound sledgehammer. When it came to infrastructure including underground utilities and ductwork—things that are foreign to the Amish—Ahearn says there was the challenge of figuring out how to accomplish everything while still working within the Amish men’s system. Thanks in large part to Peter Rosbeck, who served as general contractor on the project, they made it work. “He did a fabulous job getting everything prepped and ready,” Ahearn says.
Inside the nearly 3,000-square-foot brewery, conveying the Bad Martha brand was key for Blum, who spent two decades as an executive for Yum! Brands. “My feeling is that branding is really important, and it’s got to come through in everything that you do,” he says. “Throughout the building we’ve tried to incorporate things that are true to the brand. At every touch point you should feel the brand come alive.”
In the tasting room, tap handles are figurines of the company’s logo: the Bad Martha mermaid. (“Legend” has it that when English explorer Bartholomew Gosnold came to Martha’s Vineyard in 1602, he encountered a temptress mermaid with jet-black hair who brought him to a field of grapes, then disappeared. The company brews with grape leaves harvested on the island, hence the nod to the mysterious mermaid in their name.) Above one of the bathroom doors is an antique weathervane of a ship made by Vineyard craftsman Frank Adams in the 1920s. “That’s important because our story starts with Bartholomew Gosnold in a sailboat,” Blum says. Rather than getting a workstation for the brewery’s crowler machine (a crowler is a 32 oz. can of beer that’s good for three to six months), Blum instead purchased a 400-pound antique butcher table from Rosemont, IL. “I felt that just having a work table wouldn’t be cool,” he says, “I wanted something that felt like it was part of the environment.” A wooden life-size sculpture of “Bad Martha,” handcarved by Vermont artist Will Kautz, is displayed across from the merchandise area—which, in addition to shirts like the one mentioned at the beginning of this story, features such items as beer-flavored lip balms and sunglasses that double as bottle openers.
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