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All About Sapori Cucina & Bar

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In This Episode

Sapori Cucina & Bar in Quincy had to reinvent itself due to changes in the market caused by COVID. John from the All About Quincy Podcast sits down with Co-Owner Denise Santini to talk about their new restaurant in Quincy Center

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Sapori Cucina & Bar

All About Break Rock Brewing in Quincy

Jay Southwood of Break Rock Brewing shares his story of determination and drive to make his dream of owning a brewery a reality during the start of the Covid 19 Pandemic. His efforts have been rewarded by the great residents of Quincy. John John for this inspiring conversation on the power of having a vision and the drive to make it a reality!

Speaker 1: From the City of Presidents, it’s the all about Quincy podcast. This is your host, John Melley. Join me as we explore the history hidden gems and highlight the businesses with great stories that all tell the tale why Quincy Massachusetts is a great place to live. Hey there, it’s John. How are you Thanks for spending some time with me today, and welcome to the 10th episode of the All About Quincy podcast. I have a very cool interview today with Jay Southwood, the founder and president of Break Rock Brewing, Quincy’s only brewery, and they’ve got a nice tap room too. So we had a fun conversation. I was really impressed to hear his story about how they dealt with Covid and Jay’s drive to fulfill his dream, his mission of opening a brewery right when the pandemic hit. And so we’re gonna hear that story and how he developed his passion for brewing and all kinds of neat things that they’re doing there. As I said at the beginning of the episode, my guest today is none other than Jay Southwood, who is the founder and president of Break Rock Brewing, and he’s also the president of the Marina Bay Business Association. And Jay, this is a busy time of year for you and we are recording this episode on a Friday afternoon just before the floodgates open, hopefully, for your business this afternoon weekend. So I want to thank you for taking time outta your busy schedule to chat with us today.

Speaker 4: Of course, John. Thanks for having us. Appreciate it.

Speaker 1: Yeah, yeah. No, this is exciting. So we met through Instagram cuz I saw the Marina Bay Business Association posted that gigantic Christmas tree out on the float in the water. And I said, that’s pretty cool. And so I reached out to you, your business is pretty cool and it must be fun to brew beer for a living. So how did you get started in all of this And tell us, take us through the journey of your start in brewing and how it evolved into you being the president of this break rock brewing.

Speaker 4: Sure. I always start this off by saying that in the brewing world, my story is not particularly unique, but to people outside the brewing world, it may appear that way. I started home brewing, in 2009, just trying it out at home. A friend had started doing it, I found it really interesting. Dove head on into home brewing while working full-time in a corporate job. I’d worked for the Boston Brews for a couple years. Oh, cool. And I moved over to a national nonprofit called Jumpstart for Young Children. And I was doing, corporate sponsorship sales for them, but I was kind of getting tired of the cube life anyways. And then I was a victim of a tail end of layoffs at the organization with I think 40 or 50 people who got let go in 2011. I was a little caught off guard by it, obviously shocked and didn’t know what I was gonna do next.

Speaker 4: Exactly. But I had been so far into home brewing at that point that I said, you know, I’m really enjoying the beer scene being around the people in it. maybe there’s a career here. So, found a a, a brewery that is now defunct, blue Hills Brewing Company in Canton, found that they were offering an internship program. So I ended up working there for about a year, volunteering my time, doing everything from now, put labels on bottles, sweeping the floors all the way up to helping with brews. And, met some great people there, including who would eventually become my head brewer here at Breaker Rock Brewing and our co-owner vi Binkowski. So from there got it hooked on at Mayflower Brewing in Plymouth. Started in sales there, knowing full well that I had a decent knowledge in production, but could always go back to it.

Speaker 4: I did not know sales and management though . yeah, that’s a different made in sales to start. Moved inside, worked up from packaging technician all the way to head brewer and was there up until, August of 21, which seems like sanction ancient history at this point, in the buildup to break rock. So kind of seen all sides of the brewing industry, amateur and professional now. And always wanted to open my own brewery, you know, about a year into home brewing the bug bit me. So grew up on the South Shore Marshfield, lived a long time in Cedar Grove, Dorchester. And that’s where I really became most familiar with Marina Bay. Popping over here for, you know, drink or dinner, whatever. When I decided Quincy made the most sense as the largest city or town in all of New England without a brewery, which was crazy to me. A hundred thousand people started looking for some space. There wasn’t a lot of it, as you probably know, if someone has a warehouse or a space, it was usually being bought, developed and gone straight up in the sky. So there’s

Speaker 1: A lot of building going on in Quincy. Yeah. Where are all the people that are built all these apartments over these retail spaces I don’t, I don’t get it,

Speaker 4: But, well, hopefully they drink beer when they do come.

Speaker 1: . There you go.

Speaker 4: We eventually hooked on with, with this space through a friend of a friend who worked for my now landlord here at Muriel. And the space is a little bit around peg square hole for our production brewery being on a boardwalk. And, a couple logistical challenges. But the, the trade off is, it’s just such a beautiful and unique location and it’s really been a wild ride. We opened March 3rd and we were busy just beca because we were a new brewery, got to the summer and in the summer here it’s insane. So it was packed really all the way straight through. Only until now we just started to see, I guess you could call it a slowdown in the tap room, but a relative slowdown cuz just cuz it got a little bit colder. But, it’s been fun. Quincy’s been really supportive. The residents been awesome. and we’ve tried to to give back and be involved in the community as well.

Speaker 1: That’s great. so what is it specifically in the brewing that hooked you What was the, how did the bug bite you What what said, Hey, this is my thing.

Speaker 4: I think it was just, I don’t even know if this is a word. The tangibility of it. Okay. just being able to bring something to fruition from base ingredients, right Mm-hmm. and something as enjoyable as beer. And then once you make that and you’re say, Hey, this isn’t that bad, or Hey, this is terrible, cuz there were those too in the early homeboy days. Sure. Yeah. then it becomes a challenge, which brewers really never stop striving for, is repetition of that beer while maintaining quality control or improving that beer. And that’s the journey for most brewers. You can write a recipes, but can you brew it again to the same specs Can you make it better You know, keep continuing on your education journey. And that was a challenging part for me, which I enjoyed.

Speaker 1: Okay. So the first thing is to achieve consistency in each batch. Correct. But if it gets better, that’s even better. Correct. I get you. That sounds cool. So

Speaker 4: To chase,

Speaker 1: Say again,

Speaker 4: Something to chase,

Speaker 1: And it sounds to me like your career or your journey starting off as an intern in these different breweries and learning that you have to have somebody that sweeps the floors or puts the labels on the be, the bottles and sterilizes the bottles and all the different things that you did that if you just said, Hey, I wanna start a brewery, you wouldn’t even know what you needed. You don’t know what you don’t know until you get in there and start finding all these little parts and pieces that are, oh yeah, I’m gonna need one of those. Oh, I could do that for a while myself, but eventually I’m gonna need one of those things. And then you got into the sales part, right Because yeah, you could make all the beer in the world, but if it’s just gonna sit around in a keg , nobody’s gonna know how to you, you’re not gonna show everybody the right way so that they know to, hey, this is pretty good stuff. you’re just gonna have a lot of stale beer, . So it sounds like your whole journey into this, after you got laid off, it was all necessary to get you to where you are today.

Speaker 4: Yeah, it was a full on head first dive into the deep end of beer education. So I was reading any article I could read, I was getting any book I could read, I was going to any beer fest I could go to just full on immers, immersing myself into the local beer scene. and it was a great time at Boston too cuz this is, you know, 2010 craft breweries are really starting to explode in America and in this region. So new beers were hitting the markets that people had never tried, styles had never tried. So it was, it was a great time to be learning beer and that still continues today, but now we’re spoiled. We have so many great breweries

Speaker 1: Around as well. I understand this correctly. You just opened Break Rock Brewing this past spring in 2022 or 2021

Speaker 4: 2022 March 3rd. We were supposed to open it in 2020, but the world had other plants.

Speaker 1: My gosh. I I, I have to say man, I just admire the heck out of that. The guts for you to go ahead and do that when everything was so unsettled. I, I gotta say that is really impressive. What was it that kept you going toward this goal

Speaker 4: Well, it was probably two things. Mostly the first is just I had set my eyes on this, it’s what I wanted to do and I wasn’t gonna let anything stop me from achieving that. the second thing was more nuts and bolts. We were already two feet in at this point. I mean, by the time this the pandemic came around, we had already signed a lease. We had signed our equipment order and that was all done based on the fact that the bank, we had SBA seven a loan funding. And once you get pre-approved for that, John, you’re talking about like a 90 to 95% close rate, so you’re gonna get the money. might take another month or two. but the bank was like, you’re good. Go do your thing. So we signed that lease, we put out our equipment deposit, you know, we started putting out some money where we needed it to be.

Speaker 4: And then March of 2020 comes along, the bank calls me and says, Hey, we’re pulling the loan. So I was like, okay. So on paper, my wife and I were significantly in debt with nothing to show for it, signing off on the equipment loans and whatnot. So I, I, you know, the world had to be flexible. So I got on the phone with the landlord, equipment manufacturers and any other parties and said, Hey, listen, you know, this is what’s going on. You could sue me and my massive $0 bank account, or you can hang in with me and we can try to find a path together. And to their credit, that’s exactly what they did. But everything was a little bit more expensive build out wise than had been planned. But, eventually we got funded by another bank and got up and rolling.

Speaker 1: That’s so cool. And, and the thing is, is that all those folks were in the same position just on their end. Correct. So they needed people to be flexible with them and, you know, everybody was, everybody needed it. I sometimes wonder, just a side note here, I just wonder how much we all learned from that and whether or not we kind of tried to snap back to the way things are or were prior to without really taking home some of the lessons of, you know, man, we were all in a whole world of heart there and we were patient with each other for a good amount of time. And I don’t see that have having carried over as much as I would’ve hoped for.

Speaker 4: yeah. Hopefully it delivered some perspective to folks. yeah. Yeah. I think if nothing else, if we see something like that again, pandemic or otherwise that has that much of an impact, especially on the e economy and workers, you’d hope that we’d be better prepared to deal with it. Yeah.

Speaker 1:

Speaker 4: That being said, in particularly in the brewing industry, we saw like a tremendous amount of flexibility and creativity come out of that. Yeah. People doing things that they were never set up to do, but doing it well. So it was good to see there was some resiliency. Resiliency there in our industry and El elsewhere.

Speaker 1: Yeah. But I mean, you know, if you had, you know, folded and went, oh my gosh. I mean, eventually things had to come back or, or something. I mean, . But, yeah. You’ve been rewarded with, the turnout as you were saying in terms of how many people have been, coming to your, your, is it a brew pub or what,

Speaker 4: What is it The, the most common model across the United States The past really 10 years almost now. It’s been the tap room model as it’s called. Okay. So we are a full production brewery. We make all of our beers here. We make hard seltzers here. We are also in the process of establishing our winery license. So we’ll be able to serve some wine here, hopefully by the end of the year. Mm-hmm. . but, the taper model is really designed to get people to you in your space. And we do that by, you know, having a lot of music and creative events and engaging with the community and just kind of keeping it new and fresh. We have some snacks here and we’re not a restaurant mm-hmm. , but we do work with all the retailers down here in Marina Bay. People can order from any of those restaurants and go grab it, bring it back into the tap room.

Speaker 4: You wanna have Uber Eats delivered to you. You wanna bring in mac and cheese from home, that’s fine. You can bring in any outside food you want. And then we do also have, frequently pop-up food vendors on the weekend. So the whole idea is to get people into the tap room and enjoying the beer there so you can talk to them about it, walk them through it, educate them on it. And then we do have a light distribution footprint to go out to some stores and bars as well. But everything is made here. And probably 80, 85% of it is consumed here

Speaker 1: As well. So instead of B Y O B, it’s b Y O F.

Speaker 4: Right. If you’d like , I mean, Vic Victory Point, Donato Fred or owns Victory Point and, boardwalk Pizza. I mean, I don’t have numbers from him, but I’m guessing Donatos sold about three or 4,000 pizzas in here since we opened, so Oh wow. I mean, pizza and beer, it’s like the, the perfect combination. So I know that the retailers and restaurants around here enjoy us having here, cuz yeah, we might steal a beer or two business from them, but we’re replacing it with food and new bodies that might not have otherwise come down to Marina Bay and then they’re popping in there for dinner or whatever. So it’s a win-win that’s

Speaker 1: A cool part of the city. Beautiful. It’s got, it’s the skyline, the water, the great stuff. So aside from Covid, what has been the biggest obstacle that you have had to overcome

Speaker 4: It was really, I mean, not Covid health wise directly. Directly, but the fallout from Covid, I would say has been a little bit of a challenge. Luckily we’ve had great success with staff and I know a lot of restaurants have had trouble staffing. That has not been a challenge. But we have hit, we have seen, cost increases on raw goods. And raw materials go up, freight costs go up. And some of that was related directly to strikes or inability to move things around the country, but even when things quote got better, the prices stayed where they are. So, you know, that’s kind of the way it goes. So I, I would say although we’re financially healthy, it’s been, you know, just kind of a, every week you sit down and say, okay, what’s the new thing that’s gonna cost me more money this week Right. And I feel like that’s still continuing now with the inflationary trends that we’re seeing. So that’s been a little, little tough to navigate. But, you know, you find a course

Speaker 1: My sister has owns an ice cream stand that’s open in the summertime. And the interesting thing for her, not interesting, but the biggest challenge was particularly during covid, all the restaurants, regardless of their format, if they didn’t do takeout, they started doing takeout. Right. And so all of those supplies, like the clamshell boxes and the napkins and the straws,

Speaker 4: The containers Yep.

Speaker 1: All that stuff, everybody was ordering it. So the supply was depleted very quickly. And so it was harder and harder to get, you know, she, her whole business is a stand. It’s, you know, it’s all taken. Right. Right. and on top of that, because of the health regulations, you know, instead of just getting a cone, they had to put it in a cup. So Right. Everybody got a cup as opposed to like maybe 30% of the people who wanted cups instead of cones. So all those little things started to creep in and people don’t think about that if you’re just a customer just walking up and ordering something. Absolutely. About all those little things that instead of ordering maybe six cases of cups for like the month you’re ordering 12.

Speaker 4: Right.

Speaker 1: You know, and I’m just making up those numbers, but

Speaker 4: That time’s a thousand in all those situations. That’s been forever industry. Yep.

Speaker 1: Yeah. And that’s the kind of stuff that I like to highlight in episodes like this that just, you know, you’ve got a great business and you’ve got great customers and all that, but I think it’s important that people realize if they’re not in this game, that there’s a lot that goes into, you know, it doesn’t just come out of the tap. It, it is all the stuff that leads up to that moment. Right. I guess the other question I want to ask you is, what’s been the most gratifying part about your business

Speaker 4: I mean, it might be a little bit of a punt, but just seeing it’s work, working out. You know, I mean, sure. I, I have people close to me, family members, you know, that like in, you know, March, we opened March, a second and, you know, they’d grab me a couple weeks after that and, and say, you know, I just wanna say proud of you and like, I hope you’re taking a minute to, to take this all in. And I didn’t the first week cuz I was just straight out. But there was one night where I ended up being the last person in the building and just kind of sat at one of the tables with the lights off and looked out and I was just like, all right, like, take a breath, enjoy what we’ve done here and keep pushing forward. That was a nice moment. You know, it’s, it’s good to see smiles on people’s faces Yeah. And en enjoying a product that they can, you know, see, touch and smell. It’s not, you know, an app or something like that, or .

Speaker 1:

Speaker 4: So, so the tangibility again, of, of enjoying a beer, sitting with a friend or family member hanging out, watching a game, listening to music. Like there’s, we wanna be a community bar in Z Room and that feeling is very much alive and well down here. So that’s been nice.

Speaker 1: That’s great. And what a great picture you, painted for us in just taking that moment and sitting there. I’ve had moments like that I hope other, you know, most folks have had that experience, but it’s like, wow, this is real now. Right. That’s great.

Speaker 4: It’s important to do, but a lot of people are going so fast they forget to do it. So

Speaker 1: Yeah. I think it’s great. I think that’s awesome that you did that and I hope you have more of those, you know what’s, so today’s your nine month anniversary today we’re recording this. Yep. Congratulations. Thank you. What’s next You alluded to the wine license that you’re working for. What’s next for Break Rock Brewing

Speaker 4: I think we really wanted to just take, if not till the end of this year, maybe till the beginning of next summer, and just kind of find our legs. Yeah. Make sure we’re comfortable in our own home first, make sure that we have beer in our own home, in our own tap room. Establish who we are, what we want our identity to be. And although I think we’re doing a good job of that, we still have things we wanna figure out and get tightened up. Like any business, you, you always gotta be working on that. But I think for us it would probably be in the spring looking to maybe increase distribution a little bit, continue to do some new beers, new offerings, new events to get people down here. So just continue to, to innovate, do some different things and, and keep pushing forward, but start expanding, our market a little bit into, to other bars, restaurants, and stores.

Speaker 1: I think that makes a lot of sense. I’ve often counseled people when they come into, you know, I come from a radio background and if they’re in sales or whatever, there’s a calendar, there’s a cycle to things. So I think it takes at least a year so that you can experience all of the imperatives or the regular things that happen during that annual cycle. So in commercials, just to give you an example, starting in March they’re gonna start, or maybe even late February, they’re gonna start talking about lawn care things, you know, and like the Home Depot or Right. Any, any hardware store, garden center is gonna start advertising town on it.

Speaker 4: Yep.

Speaker 1: PR cleanup and all that kind of stuff. And then shortly after that, it’s the Memorial Day, 4th of July thing, and then right after 4th of July, it’s, they’re already advertising back to school.

Speaker 4: I know. It’s

Speaker 1: Crazy. And then, you know, Halloween and then Christmas and Thanksgiving and all of that. And so once you get through that cycle, like I’m sure you are so busy this summer, you’re like, wow, we’ve gotta increase production to meet the level of demand. And you probably have a better idea now on what those numbers are going to be for next year. And maybe you see a lot more, or at least a little bit more so that you can gear things up so that you’re not playing catch up as much. And I, that makes a lot of sense to me.

Speaker 4: Yep, that’s exactly it. We just need to know our numbers and, and use it for projecting in the future and saying, all right, should we be adding or sizing up tanks here Should we be looking at contract brewing elsewhere I mean, down the road do we look at, you know, opening a production facility and keeping Marita Bay as kind of our, our tap room front door to the public these are all questions that will need to be sussed out, but you’re right. Getting one year kind of proof underneath us and knowing what to expect is the baseline.

Speaker 1: How long, you know, when I was talking with the folks who make the candles, oats Home co folks and one of the episodes, they talked about their process of how they develop new scents for their candles and mm-hmm. experimentation that they go through. I guess it’s kind of like asking how long a piece of string is, cause it varies, but how long does it take for you to, let’s say, make a new flavor

Speaker 4: So there’s a couple different approaches. If we’re, if we’re wanting to brew a new style, which we do pretty frequently, you can kind of pick a style that you wanna make by the book and like work back on that. So you research some traditional approaches to making that beer or evaluate a spin that you might wanna put on it and you can just kind of dive in. You have experience with your system and training as a brewery, you know what numbers you need to hit and how to formulate a recipe properly. Beyond that, if you wanted to experiment with things, you can do bench trialing. So you might pull off a sample of your beer or a similar beer and add something to it to see what kind of flavors like, you know, if you wanted to add chocolate to an imperial cell or something like that.

Speaker 4: Huh. you can try all them at that way. We’ve been doing that a lot with, we make a, a, a hard seltzer called The Wall, which is a 13% cocktail selter that we do. Most of our other seltzers are 5%, seven, seven and a half percent. But this is like a big boy. We’re never gonna be able to do spirits here. So this is the closest we’ll get. But that’s been pretty fun vi’s been heading that up mostly. But we come up with a list of cocktails and say, you know, what’s achievable here So she’ll get fruit purees and extracts and powders and spices and try to recreate all these cocktails. So we’ve had rum and Cokes and Palomas and the Marina Mule we called it and Bellinis and like all these different cocktails and they’re really great cuz the 13% Selter is just a nice neutral base and then you can just kind of add on top of that. So that’s something that we could expand on or maybe even can that going into like next summer.

Speaker 1: Wow. Creative. I love it. So it sounds like you got a lot on tap.

Speaker 4: Yes.

Speaker 1: Sorry, I had

Speaker 4: you had to take that pun. Gotta do it.

Speaker 1: .

Speaker 4: Low hanging fruit.

Speaker 1: . Thanks for playing. At any rate, I gotta watch our time here, but, tell me a little bit about the Marina Bay Business Association and, how that all evolved.

Speaker 4: Sure. So I’ve been familiar with Marina Bay since I was a kid growing up on the South Shore, and then in my adult life getting over here a little more to, to see it, enjoy it play, but it’s had a couple different iterations in its lifetime. some found fondly remembered by locals, some not so fondly remembered by locals. Yeah, there’s a lot of history down here between Dennison Field and Amelia Earhart. Ted Williams flew outta here when it was in, it was in when it was an airport, I should say a Navy runway ship building history down here. And then of course there’s the modern history of, you know, the marina being developed. And now it’s, I quickly realized after opening here that, you know, there’s this weird dichotomy in Quincy that Marina Bay kind of isn’t, Quincy isn’t Boston, it just kind of its own thing.

Speaker 4: It’s not really, you know, one of the neighborhoods so to speak, which I just disagree with. Now, living down here, being down here for nine months, it is a neighborhood. It’s got 4,500 people. It’s not just one development down here anymore. It’s got, you know, 60, 70 businesses that are down here including, a Fortune 500 company and FedEx. So like, there’s a lot going on down here. There’s families with kids living in the buildings that you see strollers and dogs and there’s just a lot to it. And I think the city, you know, I’ve told Tim Kale and the mayor this, like, I don’t think we’ve done a good job talking about it. It’s such a unique property between Boston and Cape Cod rather this waterfront boardwalk that people come from Marshfield or Dedham or Watertown, places that are close by and they walk up on the boardwalk and they say, damn, like, I had no idea this was down here.

Speaker 4: And that’s a problem. Like, we’re not talking about it enough, but they’re blown away when they see it. It’s, they’re like, it’s like San Diego or the cool parts of the Jersey Shore. So, we can do a better job promoting it. And the idea was, forming the Marina Bay Business Association, which is a wing of the Quincy Chamber of Commerce. Shout out to Tim Kale for making that possible, saving me a lot of time and money and not setting up another nonprofit. Right. we, we just got, put an open invite to businesses. It’s not a dues based organization, so Okay. You know, we’re not chasing people down for a couple hundred bucks, but more sponsorship driven. So we wanna do events here, which started with lighted up this past week and we kind of passed the hat to sponsors to see who can kick in and make it work.

Speaker 4: And for the most part, especially in the boardwalk directly, I mean, almost everyone got involved down here in sponsoring Muriel. My landlord, was our lead sponsor all the way down to some smaller businesses and individuals given a couple hundred bucks. It all helped. So we, we, we wanna keep doing more of these events and try to showcase the neighborhood a little bit more. Light it up itself was, really just decorating the, the entire boardwalk and marina for, for the holidays. And last Saturday was a fun day. It was a really fun day. We had, the mayor and a couple other folks down here that said that they hadn’t seen this many people on the boardwalk since the tent days. And there’s probably, I’m hearing 2000 people about to watch Santa come in by boat and Christmas hiers and we had a holiday market down here and we’ll be doing more of that.

Speaker 4: The lights are up through January 5th and we have, Santa and the Boy Scouts down here this weekend selling wreaths. So there’s, some programming that goes on through January, but get down here and see the marina. It looks super cool at night with, the nice floating Christmas tree that you mentioned earlier. Curtis Safe Harbors, marina Bay, who runs the marina here, they built that super cool wire tree. Looks great. So come down, check it out. It’s pretty festive. We had a lot of smile on families here last week. It was good to see it so alive.

Speaker 1: That’s great. Yeah, Tim was great. He was on an episode of the show and, he really knows a lot about Quincy and he just loves helping Quincy business and promoting Quincy. I I said to him in the episode, I said, you used to run campaigns for yourself, but now the City of Quincy and its businesses are now your candidate. And so you’re correct helping them. So, Jay, thank you so much for taking time here. if there’s one thing you want people to know about Break Rock Brewing, what would that be

Speaker 4: We’re proud to be Quincy’s only brewery. We’re putting out quality product down here. Our staff has a great reputation for being kind and warm. They’re good people come down here, especially in the off season. This is when the businesses down here need the, the help the most. but in general, just telling the people at Quincy like we are here. We did a Fredj Jacks, rugby Game Fest, poured at one of their games, the, two of them this summer. And I was shocked that most of these people are from Quincy and would tell them where they ask where you’re based. And I say, marina Bay. And they’re like, wait, in Quincy I’m like, yep, come up there. We’ve been open since March, so it’s a big city, but also a small city. So we’re just trying to spread the word that we’re down here and come down, have a beer with us.

Speaker 1: Well, hopefully this episode helps people do just that. So before we jump off, Jay, just tell everybody how they can get in touch with you at Break Rock Brewing

Speaker 4: Website for Break. Rock Brewing is www.breakrockbrewing.com. Find us on, social media at slash Break Rock Brewing.

Speaker 1: That’s great. Great. And that is M B B A, quincy.com. You got it. All right. That’s great. Well, Jay, thanks again so much for taking time outta your busy schedule to be with us here today.

Speaker 4: Thanks for having me, John. It was fun.

Speaker 1: All right,

Speaker 1: Well that’s it for this episode of the All About Quincy Podcast. I want to thank you for listening. Hey, if you know of someone, maybe it’s yourself that is a business owner, historian, something neat going on in the community, an unsung hero in the city of Quincy, we want to hear about it. If you think you should be on the show or if you think of someone who should be on the show, we wanna know, just go to all about Quincy podcast.com. Click on the contact button in the upper right hand corner and fill out your name, email address, and a short paragraph of why this person should be on the show. We would love your suggestions. Anyway, until next time, thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you real soon. Take care.

All About William James Gifts

Speaker 3: My guest today is Calli McPherson, and she is the owner and founder of William James Gifts here on Hancock Street in Quincy, Santa. And, Callie, first of all, thanks for taking the time to be with us today.

Speaker 4: Of course. Thank you for having me.

Speaker 3: Before we get into all the cool stuff that you have in the shop here, tell us a little bit of the story. How did you start this business Why is it called William James Gifts, et cetera

Speaker 4: I’ll start with the name. The name is William James Gifts. It’s named after my kids. I have two boys, it’s their middle names. So wanted it to represent our family is very much a family business. So that’s where the name came from. The business itself started during the pandemic. We started in about April of 2020. I started doing gift baskets from our home, you know, so a great time to, to start a business.

Speaker 3: . I was gonna say, did you start it because of the pandemic or you were planning on it and then the fun Black Swan of the pandemic decided to send down on all of

Speaker 4: Us. Unfortunately, it was a planned thing. And, the pandemic hit and we just, you know, it was like, all right, we’re home with the kids, let’s just roll with it. So

Speaker 3: You have a really beautiful retail space here. Thank you. Did, did you have the retail space already Or was this a home-based

Speaker 4: Business It was a home based business. Luckily, luckily we did not plan the retail space right away, so I did the home business. So we did gift baskets from our home shipping all over the world for about a year. And then we opened our retail space in October of 2021. Wow. So we, luckily we’re not in a retail space when the pandemic hit, however, we did start a business during the pandemic. So for better or worse

Speaker 3: Fortuitous timing, regardless. Exactly. Well, bef that’s cool. I want, I want to talk more about that, but before we go into even more, I do this thing with some guests called the lightning round. Yeah. And these are 11 random questions that you have no idea what they are. Okay. But it’s gonna help our, our listeners get to know you a little bit there.

Speaker 4: All right. Fabulous. Ready

Speaker 3: Yes. Here’s number one. Sweet or savory.

Speaker 4: Oh, savory

Speaker 3: Number two. Crunchy cookie or chewy Cookie.

Speaker 4: Chewy.

Speaker 3: All right. You’re on a deserted island. You can only have one tool. What one tool would that be and why

Speaker 4: I am gonna go hammer, because I feel like it’s gonna help me maybe open some food, but also maybe build some sort of shelter. Okay. There we go.

Speaker 3: Very cool. favorite vacation spot

Speaker 4: Portugal.

Speaker 3: Nice. Okay. Thanksgiving or the 4th of July.

Speaker 4: 4th of July.

Speaker 3: All right. Summer or winter

Speaker 4: Olympics Winter Olympics.

Speaker 3: Coffee or tea

Speaker 4: Tea.

Speaker 3: Cape Cod or New Hampshire slash Maine.

Speaker 4: Cape Cod.

Speaker 3: All right. For New Year’s Eve,

Speaker 4: ,

Speaker 3: Times Square or small gathering at home.

Speaker 4: Oh, small gathering at home all the way. All right.

Speaker 3: And if you’re gonna go on a vacation, would you prefer museum or National

Speaker 4: Park National Park.

Speaker 3: All right. And if you’re gonna travel plane or road trip.

Speaker 4: Plane.

Speaker 3: All right.

Speaker 4: , really Yes. Yes. Two, my husband’s dismay. . I would much rather get on a plane, even with

Speaker 3: All that rigmarole that you gotta go

Speaker 4: To. Oh, yeah, absolutely. two kids in a, in a car is, is too much.

Speaker 3: Okay. That I can see. Yeah. Unless they’re sitting behind you on the plane kicking the back

Speaker 4: Of your shoes. Right, right. Yeah. A whole, whole different animal.

Speaker 3: Well, thanks for playing with that. So, you have some interesting focuses. I looked at your website and, and it’s William James gifts.com. Yes. And you have some interesting focuses. One is gluten free. Mm-hmm. , another thing that’s important to you is women owned businesses being absolutely. Your suppliers. Yes. Tell us the driving force behind both

Speaker 4: Of those. Yeah, sure. So I’ll start with the business piece of it. Everything in the store in on our website is all from small businesses. 80% of those are women owned businesses. when I started the business, it was incredibly important to support other small businesses through William James. And if I can do that through women owned small businesses is even better. I really, really believe in making an impact in your community through small business. And, you know, one way that we can do that here in, you know, the Quincy and surrounding areas, but we can then support other communities through the inventory that we sell here. So that’s the business piece of it. the gluten free piece, when we started the gift baskets, it was truly just food and it’s all gluten free because I have celiac, and as somebody with Celiac, I was not in any way comfortable selling food that I could not eat.

Speaker 4: I can’t vouch for how good it is or anything like that. And also, as somebody with Celiac, I know that it’s really difficult to sometimes find stuff that is gluten free and tastes good. Yeah. So I have been on a bit of a mission to find gourmet gluten free. Most of the stuff is different than you’re gonna find at the grocery stores. You know, our pasta is directly from Italy. We work with a lot of really small businesses to find really, really unique and special things, but it’s all really delicious and it’s just been really well received. There’s so many people that either have to avoid gluten for medical reasons or they choose to for a lifestyle. It’s really become important for a lot of people to have some place where they can walk in and they go, wow, I can eat anything that’s here, or I can buy for somebody. Anything that’s here is gonna be okay for them. And that’s not something that is around very often. So it’s been really cool.

Speaker 3: Now, is that why you decided to do gift baskets Or tell us how you decided to do that as opposed to open up a shop that sold just gluten-free groceries Yeah.

Speaker 4: To go way back. So I grew up in the Minneapolis area. My mom owns a gift store and has for the last 20 plus years, and she started with gift baskets. So the inspiration definitely came from her. The gift baskets were kind of her bread and butter starting her company. and so I had talked to her quite a bit before I decided to open the business, and she said, why don’t you start with that Because at the time, I was home with my kids and said, okay, well why don’t you start with that and see what kind of traction you can get with that. And then if you feel like you’re getting traction with that, then potentially you could look into the brick and mortar. So that’s kind of how it started. So inspired from my mom and, you know, we have a lot of, of great gluten-free foods, but I wasn’t ready to invest in a freezer and a, you know, a refrigerated section. You know, someday the dream is to be able to have a liquor license and be able to have great craft gluten-free beer. That’s the ultimate dream someday, but we’ll see if we get there. That’s

Speaker 3: Cool. Yeah. So you’ve been at this for a while,

Speaker 4: , you know, it, it feels like it.

Speaker 3: . Well, I, I, before we started this conversation, I told you some of my backstory mm-hmm. and that my family had a small retail at first. It started off as a stationary and office supply store with like pens and paper clips and three by five cards and photocopier. And we even had fax machines. Okay. Back then. Yeah. That’s how far back this goes. and then, you know, staples came along and Office Max came along and we moved fast and we started selling more greeting cards and we did in-house printing. So, you know, I, it’s not the same business, but it, it’s, it’s the same business. It’s absolutely, it’s just different widgets. Absolutely. with a different market niche. So that’s really cool. Tell me how you started your home-based business and how you transitioned to also having a retail storefront. And tell me what vehicles you used to market your business, and then I want to hear what that first sale felt like.

Speaker 4: Yeah. So when I started the business, you know, luckily for better or worse technology is where it is today, right And, you know, you can set up a website, you can set up a online commerce system fairly easily, right So actually , during the pandemic, you had a little extra time. So, you

Speaker 3: Didn’t just binge watch a series

Speaker 4: , not all the time. . I did a little bit of work here and there,

Speaker 3: Anyway. Yeah.

Speaker 4: But yeah, so, you know, I, I started with the online, getting the website kind of up and running, started to listen to some podcasts, do my research, talked to some people that were in business in the area, and kind of figure out like, okay, how do we get this started And then how do you go about getting in front of people so they know that you exist We did a lot of work with social media, Facebook, Instagram definitely helped to kind of get us in front of people. And then I am also part of a group that has a woman who does PR for small businesses and kind of teaches really small indie businesses how to get themselves pressed. And so we had a huge break in June of 21. we were featured on the Food Network. Oh, wow. and our gift baskets as it, you know, a great gift for Father’s Day. So that was huge for us. We got big national press out of it. so, you know, that that’s still one of the coolest things that happened. So, you know, we got some press from that and obviously some recognition. So that was a great thing that happened. And then, you know, a few months later it was kind of like, all right, now I’m feeling comfortable taking the leap into the brick and mortar.

Speaker 3: That’s a really cool break that you go.

Speaker 4: It was amazing.

Speaker 3: Amazing. Isn’t amazing how much reach, even all of these niche programs mm-hmm. have, there’s just so many people out there. Yeah. And it really doesn’t take a ton of folks. You just need a loyal following.

Speaker 4: Absolutely. Absolutely.

Speaker 3: that’s really cool. And one question. What, what podcasts do you listen to aside from the all about Quincy podcast

Speaker 4: , obviously , besides that, so I started with a podcast called Making Good. it’s run by a woman. Her name is Lauren Tilden. She actually went to college in Massachusetts, but she lives out on the West Coast and she also owns a brick and mortar business. But her whole thing is, if you’re going to be a business owner, how do you do good in your community How do you give back to, you know, those in need And that’s the whole premise of her business and her podcast. So I started actually with her and through her got connected with somebody who kind of does some social media and coaching mm-hmm. and kind of just grew from there. I also listened to the Savvy Shopkeeper. obviously very niche for what I do. Yeah. But Kathy is a really, really great resource, and have learned a lot from her as well.

Speaker 3: Cool. Yeah. A couple of shoutouts there. Yeah, absolutely. Why not take us through your store. Yeah. And when somebody walks down to, was it 1543

Speaker 4: 1543 Absolutely. Yeah.

Speaker 3: Yeah. , when they walk through the door, what can they expect

Speaker 4: We pride ourselves on the store being warm and inviting and clean. we’ve really, and I don’t mean clean, like no dirt on the floor, I mean like clean in the, it’s easy to find things.

Speaker 3: I have to say that you’re, your, just, your merchandising is, is very easy to access. Thank you. The different, products on the shelve.

Speaker 4: Thank you. Yeah, thank you.

Speaker 3: It, it is clean

Speaker 4: , it is also clean. You do also like sweep the floors and stuff. I swear.

Speaker 3: And anyway, go ahead. Yeah.

Speaker 4: but yeah, you know, we want you to walk in and feel comfortable. We want you to walk in and feel like, okay, I need a gift for my mother-in-law and my coworker, and I’m gonna be able to find what I need here. We’re obviously here to help. We want people to feel like, you know, they can ask questions and yeah. You’ll see all the gluten free food. It’s all together in one area, so you don’t feel like you’re kind of going all over the place. We have a great selection of cards. They’re both fun and really pretty as well. we have some really, really great vendors for those, you know, but we have accessories and home goods and we have a little selection of like baby and young kids. But then, you know, it all goes back to the gift baskets as well. So we have an area that you can always put together a gift basket. We have some that are pre-designed in the store, but you can always go through the store, pick things up, and wrap it up with a big bow and make it look nice.

Speaker 3: My wife Ann and I stopped in here on, Sunday. I think it was right after the Christmas parade. Mm-hmm. . And, we were looking at some of the different things Ann was looking for. a couple of gifts for some friends of hers. And I have to say that some of the tea towels Yes. That you have here,

Speaker 4: have

Speaker 3: Basically the thought bubbles of things that people are thinking. Yes. But don’t want to say out loud. , which I just love because everybody’s so timid these days about offend mm-hmm. . But you know, you put it on a TT towel who’s gonna get upset. Right.

Speaker 4: It’s, it’s very fun. . I really like them and I enjoy that. Other people, you know, find, find them humorous as well. It’s always good when, you know, people walk through the store and you hear them kind of chuckle .

Speaker 3: Yeah. Little Snickers.

Speaker 4: Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker 3: That’s right. Oh, they just saw that I print

Speaker 4: That out. Right, exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Exactly. It makes you be like, okay, this was good .

Speaker 3: Yeah. Very good. You also have a lot of gifts. Yes. Aside from the tee tells you, you tell us about all the d some of the different things that you have here in your

Speaker 4: Shop. Yeah. So, some of the best selling stuff that we have in the store are our candles. We have candles from three different makers. Again, obviously all small businesses. One is based in Pittsburgh, one is in Virginia, and then the other one is actually here, local and Massachusetts. It’s two women in Bridgewater. There are companies called Feather and Fin. They make beautiful candles and they also, them and palm prints, again, Massachusetts companies, women owned businesses. they actually collaborate and they make both a traditional Quincy candle for us and a holiday Quincy candle for us. And those are, really popular. So we have those, we have, you know, things for like, we have shower steamers that are very popular, but beyond that, you know, we have coffee mugs, we have bowls for your home, we have cutting boards. we do personalize gifts as well. So you can personalize cutting boards, serving boards, glassware, we do embroidery with two different, again, women owned local businesses as well as stationary. That can be personalized as

Speaker 3: Well. Yes. I know it can . How do you do that in-house Or do you send it out

Speaker 4: We do send it out. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. We know we’re not that talented . No, no. Well,

Speaker 3: Well, you know, it, it takes a lot to actually, it’s more than just feeding it through a Oh yeah. A laser printer. Yes. I mean, it’s, yes. Gotta line it up. Absolutely. You also have, I looked at your website Yeah. Before coming over. Not pre-made, but like pre like a packaged your gift baskets. Yes. So like, tell us they all have different names. They do. And they come with different things. Absolutely. And at different price points. Mm-hmm. and all of that. So describe for us what those are and if somebody’s thinking of a gifts basket, the different situations that they might consider a different gift basket that you have in your lineup.

Speaker 4: Absolutely. So our, we have, kind of like you described, we have six, what I call pre-designed gift baskets online. They have really random names, so they don’t necessarily like indicate one’s for like one event or the other. However, I actually think that that’s really nice because it allows people to pick what feels appropriate to them. the gift baskets range from about $58 to like $200 mm-hmm. , the ones that are predesigned. So we encourage people to look at them, see what’s in them, and kind of like, think about who it’s going to. Is it going to a family, is it going to an individual Is it going to an office And that kind of sometimes helps to drive the conversation about what should be in the basket. Do you want things that are more shareable Is it for somebody to celebrate a birthday or a birth of a child

Speaker 4: Or is it, we do a lot of sympathy baskets as well as it for a family that’s grieving. so, you know, we have those conversations with people and sometimes that helps us to steer them to, if it’s some, a family that’s grieving, let’s make sure we have like some snacks and maybe some pasta and a pasta sauce. Some, something that makes easy meals, but also they can like pick at things is they’re obviously busy and overwhelmed with life. Right. but you know, if it’s a celebration, let’s, maybe we throw a couple champagne glasses in there and you know, let’s throw in some really great crackers that they could use that and a jam for a party and all that kind of stuff.

Speaker 3: Right, right. Yeah. Who’s the person who needs to get a gift basket Is is cuz I, I sometimes I, I do a good job getting gift. I, I actually have a creative thought, but then there’s a lot of times where I go, oh my gosh, I’m totally drawn a blank here. I, i I just don’t know what to do. Gift basket can solve absolutely. A lot of problems.

Speaker 4: Right. You know, honestly, I tell people that gift baskets are a great gift and they’re a perfect gift because it’s not just one thing if you’re unsure of what to get somebody, or you’d feel like you don’t know them well enough to get them, you know, one thing, a gift basket is great because you can put two or three or four or five, you know, whatever things in it. And inevitably you’re gonna have at least one or two things that somebody likes. So it’s a good option, I think for a lot of people. especially this time of year, we do a lot for people who are sending gifts to clients. They’re sending them to their employees to say thank you for, you know, your hard work this year. We have a lot of realtors that do ’em for closing gifts. Nice. Yeah. Yeah. So, you know, we can do a typical basket. They’re very versatile. They definitely are for everyone. But I, I do think that they really are a great gift for somebody that you’re not entirely sure what to get them, but you wanna make sure that it’s special and has like a, a real presentation value to it.

Speaker 3: I am gonna be a wise guy. You don’t make gift baskets with just like different pairs of socks in them.

Speaker 4: , no socks. . Although if you bring in socks, I will wrap them up for you. . Hi.

Speaker 3: New

Speaker 4: Socks. New sock, please.

Speaker 3: Yes. wash socks. We’ll probably cut that part up. . what I do wanna ask this though, what’s the weirdest occasion that you’ve sent a gift basket to

Speaker 4: Ooh, that’s a really good question.

Speaker 3: There have gotta be some really. Oh,

Speaker 4: There are

Speaker 3: Wow. Yeah. I never thought or heard of that.

Speaker 4: There are some that you go, oh, okay. That’s a new one. ,

Speaker 3: What’s what’s the, favorite gluten-free food item that you sell here

Speaker 4: I’m gonna narrow it down to three. Okay. granola, we have four different types of the granola and they’re very popular. Mm-hmm. our beef jerky. Oh. very good. Unfortunately, this is the last stock we’re gonna have. So if you like our beef jerky, come grab it. The company is unfortunately going out of business. Ah. And then outside of that is our pastas.

Speaker 3: Gluten-free

Speaker 4: Pasta, gluten-free pasta, gluten-free pasta is something that’s very hard to eat and make it feel like it’s real pasta as, as I as I call it. Yeah. Or full gluten pasta as my husband calls it. But ours is directly from Italy. It tastes like real pasta.

Speaker 3: Now does your husband have his own little pasta cabinet and then you have to have yours

Speaker 4: He used to used, he used used to. Now our whole house is gluten free. Yeah. There go. So unfortunately, he, he’s stuck with all my gluten-free stuff at home, but No, that’s fine. You know what, he gets it when he goes out, so There you

Speaker 3: Go. . Yeah, it’s always, there’s plenty of it are

Speaker 4: Around. There’s plenty of it. Go some gluten. We got gluten.

Speaker 3: Yeah. There’s a gyro

Speaker 4: Gluten. Oh, he tells every waiter. I’ll have the full gluten version please.

Speaker 3: . Yes. You can’t have fun then. Why

Speaker 4: Exactly. Right.

Speaker 3: what’s the hidden gem Ooh. The one thing they’re just like, I don’t know why people aren’t snapping this up and running out the door with it. Mm. After paying

Speaker 4: , obviously . I don’t know that they’re, so, they’re totally hidden because they are really popular. But I’m gonna say our coasters really, we go through, we sell a lot Uhhuh . so they’re not truly hidden, but kind of like you were talking about the tea, tea towels, they’re very, they’re very wise cracking type. They’ve

Speaker 3: Got an edge

Speaker 4: To them. They’ve got an edge to ’em. Yeah. And so, honestly, they just make people laugh and there’s four of them in a pack, they’re $10. So like, they’re a great little add-on to a gift or they’re again, a really great little thing to just be like, here I thought of you. These are funny. Yeah. Yeah. they’re really fun. We do sell a lot of ’em, so they’re not very hidden, but I, they’re really cool. That’s

Speaker 3: Great. , we’re coming up on a half an hour and I wanna thank you for your time. If there’s one thing you want our listeners to know about William James gifts to come away Yeah. With, from this interview, what would that be

Speaker 4: That we’re here to make your shopping and gifting experience easier Life is busy. We all are pulled in a million different directions, but we’re here to help and to make it easy. So, you know, if you wanna call or email us and we can help to make things simple and, you know, ship things for you, that, that’s why we’re here.

Speaker 3: There you go. That’s pretty cool. It’s all done for you.

Speaker 4: Yeah, it’s all done. And I promise the quality of everything’s, it’s, it’s beautiful. People will be happy with what they get.

Speaker 3: Now can a person pick out the different things that you have available

Speaker 4: Absolutely.

Speaker 3: From your shop or Absolutely. Do they go online and pick out

Speaker 4: Different things or Yes. So most of our products are available online. Some of the personalized stuff is not that you kind of have to call or come into the store, but pretty much everything else is available online. You can order online for either local pickup or to ship, and you can do that all through the website. you know, we definitely take orders over the phone as well. And, we are also here in store, 10 to six Tuesday through Saturday, and then Sundays 11 to three through the holidays.

Speaker 3: Very good. Now, if people want to, reach out to you online and on the various odd and sendry social media platforms, what’s the best way for them to do that Sure.

Speaker 4: So the website is William James gifts with an s.com. On both Facebook and Instagram. We are William James gifts. So nice and easy. and in terms of an email, we’re [email protected].

Speaker 3: Well, Kelly, any questions for me

Speaker 4: I don’t think so. All

Speaker 5: Right. ,

Speaker 3: Thanks so much for taking time outta your very busy day. And this time of year, it’s, it’s just before Christmas, so you must be cranking and I hope, I hope the season goes well. And, thanks for being on the show. Thank

Speaker 4: You for having me.

Speaker 1: Well, that’s it for this episode of the All About Quincy Podcast. I want to thank you for listening. Hey, if you know of someone, maybe it’s yourself that is a business owner, a historian, something neat going on in the community, an unsung hero in the city of Quincy, we want to hear about it. If you think you should be on the show or if you think of someone who should be on the show, we wanna know, just go to all about Quincy podcast.com, click on the contact button in the upper right hand corner and fill out your name, email address, and a short paragraph of why this person should be on the show. We would love your suggestions. Anyway, until next time, thanks for listening and I’ll talk to you real soon. Take care.