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In this moment when we’re hearing so many stories of hardship from both employers and employees in the world of independent business, including craft brewing, it’s rewarding to be able to share a positive one.
Local beer historian John Harry says that he and his wife, Rikki, who work "very part-time" at Sprecher Brewing – which was sold by founder Randy Sprecher to a group of Milwaukee investors in January – got a pleasant surprise on Thursday.
"I'm a tour guide and she's a bartender, we work a weekend or two a month," John Harry told me. "Obviously, we can't work there at all right now.
"Yesterday ... we got extra money deposited into our account (from Sprecher). I reached out to CEO Sharad Chadha to thank him, and he said they gave bonuses to all retail and production staff to hopefully make these tough times easier."
That's the kind of news that makes a Sprecher Amber go down even more smoothly.
"Part of it is to say thanks for being fully heads-in during what is a trying time for everyone," says Sprecher Chief Commercial Officer Jim Kanter. "Part is a continued investment in some of the best craft soda and beer makers in the world which sit right here in Glendale Wisconsin."
Kanter says that the slow-down caused by precautions to help slow the spread of the virus have had an effect at the brewery, as it has on many businesses.
"As you know, Sharad and I came in about 2 months ago. We are still very excited and bullish on the opportunity and future of Sprecher," Kanter says. "No one told us four weeks in we would be in the middle of a pandemic.
"We certainly have parts of our business which are suffering greatly given the state of on-premise business of bars and restaurants. We certainly have felt a dramatic slowdown in our retail business onsite with no tours and people just generally not being out as much abiding by the safer at home policy. However, our partners in the off-premise grocery business continue to work very hard and love the idea of quality local products. We are humbled with how they are continuing to support our products."
Kanter says that Sprecher is offering curbside pickup, to-go orders and growler fills, and has also made an effort to not lay off or furlough any employees.
"We have redeployed resources from our tour staff and some from our gift shop staff to repaint, organize and reimagine our space so that when things do return to normal we have additional things to celebrate with the community.
"Employees are very grateful to be working here and this has certainly helped continue their commitment to making great quality craft sodas and craft beers. We see the great pride they already have in the brand, and we feel this gives everyone a little more sense of pride and pep in their step with all that is going on for everyone. We are grateful for the support our employees have given us."
The bonuses are a concrete expression of that support and one which definitely makes an impression on employees.
"I was really impressed," says Harry. "It shows how much they value even the lowest level of employee to make sure we aren’t left out."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.