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Union Collective Represents Opportunities to Come in Baltimore City

Union Collective Represents Opportunities to Come in Baltimore City

DHCD partners  on brewery’s newest venture to create approximately 250 new jobs

Growing Pains

Union Craft Brewing had a problem. After a few years in business, they had grown so much that their location off Union Avenue in Baltimore City’s Woodberry neighborhood was too small to suit their needs. They were able to secure the space for their new home — and for other small businesses too — with financing from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Neighborhood BusinessWorks program.

Union was established in Baltimore in 2011, and opened to the public in the spring of 2012. Co-founder Adam Benesch said the brewery was the brainchild of himself and two close friends, Kevin Blodger and Jon Zerivitz, all lifelong residents of Baltimore City. Union was the first production brewery to open in the city in more than 30 years. Benesch said they knew they wanted to remain in Baltimore, but were having a hard time finding a space that would meet their needs as they looked to expand. In June of 2017, the founders finally found the perfect space: a 140,000-square-foot former warehouse in Hampden that dates back to the 1950s that can be seen from Union’s current facility.

The department provided a $500,000 small business loan directly to the business owners. Additionally, the department assisted with further funding, allowing  the project’s primary lender, the Enterprise Community Loan Fund, to raise an additional $1 million of capital. With the loans secured, the founders were able to purchase the warehouse and obtain a new home for their next venture, Union Collective.

Collectively Succeeding

During the search for their new home, another important connection was made with other Baltimore-based small business owners. “We’re big fans of like-minded people that are doing things for the right reasons coming together to do things better than we could individually,” Benesch said. “We thought, why not take that philosophy and apply it here too?”

When it opens later this spring, Union Collective will be the home to seven other small to medium-sized businesses, including a rock climbing gym, a whiskey distillery and other specialty retailers. All businesses in the collective will have production on-site, so visitors can see firsthand how these products are made. It’s also expected to create 250 new jobs in the city. The collective, Benesch said, will be “a modern day manufacturing center for Baltimore.”

New Pairings and Possibilities

Benesch said the department’s involvement has been critical to getting Union Collective off the ground. He first heard about Neighborhood BusinessWorks through Seawall Development, their neighbors at their current location, and staff there helped them connect to the department’s team.

“In reading and getting to understand the programs out there, NBW seemed to best fit our needs and aligned with the goals we had, in terms of making this a community center,” Benesch said. “The team was there to help us through the process, and help us understand. Once we made that connection…all that stuff figured itself out. They were very open and honest, and it worked. It was a rewarding process in the sense of seeing that these state programs can help create something like this. It was eye-opening. It shows the state does care what’s happening in these communities.”

Union Collective is expected to help the company grow considerably, although Benesch said they’d like to remain a Mid-Atlantic brand and don’t intend to expand much in terms of distribution. Upgrades to equipment will be possible, and the collective is expected to bring a lot of exposure, as well as a growth of  revenue. The new site is also located right off I-83, so they will have the added benefit of more visibility.

“We couldn’t have done this on our own,” Benesch said. “We needed the support of organizations like DHCD and Neighborhood BusinessWorks. To find that connection, I couldn’t believe there were people actually focused on this and solving the complicated issues it takes.”[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wF5D2YPyPYk&w=560&h=315]

DHCD offers flexible financing for new and expanding small businesses through the Neighborhood BusinessWorks program. Visit http://dhcd.maryland.gov/Business/Pages/SmallBusinesses.aspx for more information.