Disaster Loan Allows Brewery to Retain and Support Employees

Grayton Beer Company was founded in 2011 in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida. They are a locally-owned distributor and brewery with quality sourced ingredients. They operate out of a 30,000 square foot facility with their product reaching the states of Northwest Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee.

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the company has suffered severe economic injury. Seeking help, Chelsea Blaich, Marketing Director, reached out to the Florida SBDC at UWF for assistance with a disaster loan.

How has your business been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic?

Although our products are wide-reaching, the team that accomplishes the tasks of brewing, bottling, and packaging our beers is small. Typically, we have 35 employees, most of whom are seasonal part-time laborers. The economic impact of the current coronavirus pandemic is and will continue to depress sales revenues. The federal, local, and voluntary restrictions have had a significant effect on our Production Facility and Taproom. The arrival of the fast-spreading disease emerged at the cusp of a pivotal Spring Break season. Currently, the Taproom is closed indefinitely to guests, who before coronavirus could visit the space and enjoy a beer or flight of beers where it’s actually brewed. Additionally, the space is ideal for large private events. Many of which were canceled due to safety concerns. The biggest hit has been felt by our production facility. As raw material suppliers have been impacted by COVID-19, Grayton Beer has seen an increased cost related to expedited order processing. In this time of uncertainty, both in-state and out-of-state sales have been cut or canceled. The combined factors of decreased laborers, reduced sales, and increased costs have resulted in dramatic operational decisions that have both short- and long-term consequences.

How helpful was the disaster loan?

The utilization of the [Florida Small Business Emergency] Bridge Loan has allowed us to not only continue operations in this ever-changing environment but, more importantly, to retain and support our employees, including our most impacted furloughed employees. Our fear without the support of the disaster loan was that we would lose acquired talent due to job reduction or shutdown. In our area, the cost of living is relatively high and the technically specific employee pool is extremely shallow.

How helpful was the Florida SBDC at UWF?

The team at the SBDC was extremely helpful to our staff while we worked to complete the application process for the disaster loan. The SBDC was very friendly and informative whenever we needed assistance. We understand these are trying times and tensions are running high. It made the process easier to know the SBDC was working hard for a small business such as ours.

Jamey Whitehead

"The team at the SBDC was extremely helpful to our staff while we worked to complete the application process for the disaster loan."

- Chelsea Blaich, Marketing Director - Grayton Beer Company

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