WORCESTER TELEGRAM — When brewer Alida V. Orzechowski met Meredith T. Harris, executive director of the Marlboro Economic Development Corp., it was, she said, love at first sight.
Ms. Orzechowski and life partner Chris Brown, head brewer of Walden Woods Brewing, had been pounding the pavement, looking for the right community to open their brew pub in, Ms. Orzechowski said.
“We were looking for space for eight months, all over, in every town within a half-hour commute of Acton,” Ms. Orzechowski said. “But, when we approached the towns to open up a taproom, we found that towns work individually with their bylaws, and to open a brewery, their bylaws said we can’t manufacture and sell in the same building. We would have spent a crazy amount of time going to town meeting. We were frustrated with the lack of support for this type of brewery.”
Their frustration was not just with the lack of support in the communities they encountered, she said, but also that the towns didn’t have the foresight to realize a brew pub “might be a thing” and they should change their bylaws.
Then, the couple got a call from their Realtor about potential in Marlboro.
“She said, ‘Marlboro is looking for a brewery,’ ” she said.
Thought skeptical at first, she said, they were locked into opening in Marlboro after their first meeting at the Marlboro Economic Development Corp., or MEDC.
“It was love at first sight,” she said, laughing. “We were totally in love with Maddy (Madison Waters, business outreach manager) and Meredith, who had the foresight to understand and invite a brewery in and make it a bylaw and zoning-friendly. We didn’t fit into any zoning law, because it is such a weird model, and they had already changed all that.”
That wasn’t all. The couple was also eligible for MEDC’s new program developed to attract brew pubs and restaurants to the city. The Marlboro Amenities Financing Program reimburses one year of rent, up to $15,000, and 50 percent of equipment expenses, up to $10,000, for new food-and-beverage businesses or other amenities that open in the city.
Applicants must sign a multiyear lease in Marlboro to be eligible for rental assistance, said Ms. Harris, and demonstrate that the business would not be possible without it. To be eligible for equipment reimbursement, applicants must provide three price quotes per item, along with proof of purchase.
Ms. Orzechowski and Mr. Brown looked at a vacant space at 277 Main St., known as the Victoria building, and decided it was the right spot the same day. Their first year of rent is paid through MEDC’s program, and they are also benefiting from the equipment cost reimbursement.
“We’re super-excited,” said Ms. Harris, who has advertised the program, including in BeerAdvocate magazine. “The biggest obstacles to opening up a brew pub or restaurant are that other programs didn’t align with their needs,” she said. “This program does that.”
Rent and start-up costs can be obstacles for such businesses, she said. The program aims to help home brewers transition to large-scale production and restaurateurs to expand or open a new location, she said.
Marlboro also rezoned its downtown in 2014, creating a mixed-use village district, she said, paving the way for trendy new brew pubs and higher-end restaurants, after asking residents and businesses what they wanted to see downtown.
“That’s what people wanted to see down here, and also from businesses we heard that their employees want to go out after work, and wanted us to add more variety,” Ms. Harris said. “Walden Woods was the perfect fit, and their concept is perfect.”
Ms. Orzechowski, who also runs a travel business, and Mr. Brown have been brewing half barrels of beer in a pilot system in their Acton home for about a decade. Opening a brew pub, she said, is a natural progression of that work.
Walden Woods Brewing will also be Marlboro’s first brewery since Colonial times, when Williams Tavern brewed its own beer, Ms. Orzechowski said. She, Mr. Brown and two other partners, who Ms. Orzechowski said are “total history geeks,” are sharing a love of craft beer and history with their new business venture.
“In particular, we admire Henry David Thoreau and the literary history that grew out of Concord in the mid-19th century,” she said. “We have a strong vision for the taproom as a community-focused space and also, while also highlighting Massachusetts’ history … how intimately entwined it is with the history of brewing.”
The couple expect to open the brew pub before the end of 2017. They declined to say how much they are spending on the project.
Mr. Brown, who has been an active home brewer since college and has done commercial work in the industry since 2009, said he is looking forward to combining his experience with his love of local history at Walden Woods Brewing.
“We believe the craft beer movement is here to stay, partly because people are becoming more conscious about the quality of the beer they’re drinking, much like we care about the quality of our food and where it comes from,” Mr. Brown said. “As a society, we’re making more thoughtful choices and recognizing the impact those choices have on our communities and overall quality of life.”
This article by Paula Owen originally appeared here.