PARRSBORO, N.S. – What started as a concept to bring additional traffic and business to the Parrsboro has exploded onto the scene with the opening of Two Islands Brewery and the Rising Tide Bakery on the community’s main street.
“Three or four years ago the four of us were talking about what we could do to make a difference in Parrsboro,” partner and company president David Beattie said. “We talked about a bunch of ideas and one that kept coming back was a brewery and the other thing that was really missing was a local bakery. So, we decided to co-locate and bite bullet and do them both.”
As Beattie, secretary Wendell Gallagher, treasurer Tom MacLaren and vice-president Norman Rafuse started the planning process they reached out to others in the community seeking investors while also working with the Royal Bank and the FarmWorks Investment Co-operative to come up with the capital required to get the business off the ground.
With their own investments and those of the other 12 community investors approximately $800,000 was raised with construction taking place throughout 2018 with the bakery opening in late September while its first beer came off the taps in mid-October.
“We raised over $270,000 in equity investment and that allowed us to leverage money from the bank, ACOA and FarmWorks,” said Beattie, who also owns the Gillespie House Inn and the Black Rock Bistro.
It also had support from the Nova Scotia Equity Tax Credit Program.
The group, admitting it didn’t have much knowledge of the craft brewery business, bought a small system and began learning the process involved in making beer. Last winter, Beattie went away and took courses on micro-brewery startup, ordered its equipment and hired consultant Greg Nash as a master brewery.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have his support. He’s been very helpful and we really benefitted from him helping us develop some recipes and showing us the process and the art of brewing beer,” Beattie said. “On the bakery side we were able to find someone to look after the bakery side of things.”
Right now, the company has three to five employees and will be looking to add during the busier time of the year next summer.
Beattie said the main reason the group decided to press ahead with the project is their belief in Parrsboro.
“Our goal is to strengthen Parrsboro as a destination for tourism as well as to make a return on the investment for our shareholders,” Beattie said.
One of the challenges of creating business in the area is its seasonality.
“The challenge for any of these tourism businesses is the seasonality,” Beattie said. “It is a challenge to get enough revenue in five months to carry you for 12.”
That belief will also see Rafuse, who is the former town’s representative on Cumberland municipal council, reopen the neighbouring Sweet Briar Boutique in the spring.
“There are some great things going on in this community,” Rafuse said. “What was the Sweet Briar Boutique will be going back in bigger and better and will be named Love Jill Boutique. It’s a dedication to my wife who passed away recently.”
Starting out the company has an ale, porter, red and porter.
“They represent the four important segments of the craft industry and we wanted to have something for everyone,” he said. “We wanted to have drinkable, approachable beers that people would recognize and not off the wall things that would be niche. We want to appeal to the local market and the tourism market as well.”
The reception, to date, has been very favourable.
“We’re getting lots of great comments, we’ve had people try the beer who’ve told us it’s among the best beers they’ve tasted,” Gallagher said. “Everything has been good so far. I know I’ve tried the APA and I really like it.”
While it’s selling mostly at its Parrsboro location, the company has begun kegging beer to sell at local bars and restaurants across Cumberland County.
“We’ll see where it goes from there. There’s lots of competition in the craft brewing industry and we want to keep our expectations modest,” Beattie said.
Cumberland-Colchester MP Bill Casey welcomed the brewery and bakery.
“This is such a great community-driven project,” Casey said. “There are 18 counties in Nova Scotia and 16 of them have a declining population. It’s really important that small communities fight back and that’s what you’ve always done in the Parrsboro area. I’ve always admired your efforts here. You pull together, figure out what resources you have and then you tap into everything you have to make it work. If you look at a lot of the projects they’re all community-minded.”
He believes it will tie in the Cliffs of Fundy geopark project and future planning for recognition for Isle Haute off Advocate Harbour.
Cumberland South MLA Tory Rushton said he has worked throughout the Atlantic Provinces and the eastern United States and upon sampling the Two Islands product said it’s among the best he’s tasted.
“You probably have the best beer in eastern Canada,” he said. “It’s very good and I can’t wait to see this take off. This is what makes rural Nova Scotia. It’s about people taking on a challenge in their small communities and it gives me the opportunity to go back to the province and share these stories, drum up the tourism, bring the people here and show them Cumberland County has something to offer.”
Cumberland County’s deputy warden Joe van Vulpen said the brewery and bakery are examples of what economic development is in the county.
“A quality product will bring people in,” van Vulpen said.