Rushford & Sons Brewhouse is Upton’s first known brewery. Years in the making, the company officially opened for business on Dec. 3, offering exclusively canned beer sales. One of three childhood best friends to own the brewery, Co-owner and Manager Brian Goodman discussed with WBJ what it was like to open a dream business in the middle of a pandemic, what it’s like doing business in the quiet town of Upton, as well as what’s on the horizon as the company prepares to open its beer garden for the first time in the coming weeks.
How did Rushford & Sons come to be?
So, my primary partner Mike Rushford – hence the name – who is our head brewer, and my other partner, Eric Martin, the three of us are childhood best friends. They have been homebrewing since the early aughts and for the last seven or eight years I’ve been telling Mike, “Hey, whenever you’re ready, you let me know, and we’ll go pro.”
About three years ago he said he was ready, so we started working on our business plan, started working on our financial model. We had everything ready. We had started lining up some investors. Long story short, I’m a real estate investor and when I was ready to pull the trigger on the property where we’re at in early March 2020, and of course, you know, 2020 happens. We ended up closing on the property at the end of May, but our business plan had to pivot a lot.
As much as I would prefer not to have had last year happen, it’s been kind of a silver lining for us.
Where are the three of you from originally?
All three of us were born and raised in Worcester. I don’t have the accent though. I always joke, my dad was born and raised in Worcester, and my mom was born and raised in Chicago. She agreed to move to Worcester with my dad and the condition was they raise their kids without the accent.
Can you talk to me a bit about why Upton ended up being the right place?
Well, the thing is, we were not looking to be a small fish in a big pond. We were looking to be a small fish in a small pond, with our business model. We’re a family-owned business. Family-oriented, community-oriented. Our goal was to do what we do and make the beer that we make and serve a specific community, rather than try to compete on a larger scale. We really wanted to start with serving just one community and establishing roots, because that’s kind of the genesis of beer culture, so to speak.
It’s not about bringing a product to mass market; it’s about serving a community and having a relationship with that community. And with a smaller community, there’s a lot more opportunity to really establish roots and a relationship with the community you service.
So what has opening been like?
It’s been, obviously, a range of emotions. There’s been a lot of highs and a lot of lows. It’s been very stressful. It’s been really great. I don’t know if I’d recommend opening a business during a once-in-100-year pandemic to anybody, but it’s been a really great community. I’m opening up my dream business with my best friends and with family support, and as stressful as it is, it’s been awesome.
How do you get customers in the door? What’s marketing like for a new business?
It’s about talking to people and engaging people, making sure we’re visible and doing what you need to do to start to grow roots in an already rooted community. So, the biggest thing for us is we’ve been really trying to reach out to a lot of local sports, youth sports organizations. We’re sponsoring field hockey, little league, soccer, softball. We wanted to get a good mix of sports for both girls and boys to really get in with the parents because there’s a great young family community here in Upton who’s going to be really supporting us.
It’s really mostly locally-oriented marketing and establishing ourselves in the community as well as being very accessible to locals who’re driving by and pop in.
Do you offer food or plan to?
We have no plans to offer food, and our goal always was to rely on a combination of food trucks and driving traffic to local restaurants.
How many beers are you making at any given time, and what’s your rotation like?
We generally have six core beers that our goal is to always have stocked. But we’re going to start rotating more beers in and out. For instance, we have four additional beers we’re going to have in addition to our core six that will be in and out through the spring and into the early summer.
We want to make sure we have nice core beers very accessible and drinkable to everybody, but we’re also going to have some weird stuff people might not have tried before and some popular stuff people really like to drink. We want to make sure we’re always going to have something for everybody and, after much debate, we’re going do some seltzer, as well.
Will you be doing a combination of retail on top of pouring?
We’re going to be starting off with a beer garden outside in a few weeks for spring, summer and early fall. Our goal, assuming things continue the way they’re continuing and it’s safe to do so, is to later be opening our full-service taproom.
Retail is how we started, and we’ll always have plenty of cans you can take home with you.
This interview was conducted and edited for length and clarity by WBJ staff writer Monica Busch.