April 30, 2018
Some people, encountering someone just out of jail, might shun that person like a criminal conviction was contagious.
Tess Hart wants to hand that person a job application and a beer menu.
Hart is one of three co-founders of the Triple Bottom Brewing Company, a new brewery set to open in Philadelphia’s Spring Garden neighborhood.
Hart, her husband Bill Popwell, and their head brewer, Kyle Carney, recently secured a 7,300-square-foot space in the old Reading Railroad building on Spring Garden near Ninth to open their brewery, where they’ll simultaneously serve up social justice along with craft beer. They aim to employ people whose criminal pasts have made it tough for them to land a job.
“I know firsthand how a job can change a life,” said Hart, who used to work in community development in Washington, D.C.
The name of the new brewery represents their triple mission of profit, planet (as in environmental sustainability) and people.
The people part, Hart said, is the most important.
Hart and her co-founders have partnered with Project HOME and PowerCorps PHL to connect with folks whose criminal histories have posed barriers to employment, Hart said.
They also aim to create a workplace that addresses their special needs. An employee break area, for example, will offer laundry and bathing facilities, a kitchen, computers and leisure space, while the employee handbook will be written to be accessible to workers with lower literacy levels. The brewery will also offer workers training on conflict resolution and inclusiveness, Hart added.
“It’s something we would want to offer to any employee, but it’s something we see as especially important for people who have faced a lot of barriers, maybe experienced trauma,” Hart said. “It helps to step away from things for a while and have your own space. We want to be very intentional about creating a space that makes life easier for our team.”
Even the brewery’s location — between Center City and lower-income neighborhoods to the north — serves their social justice mission, Hart said.
“Philly is a really exciting place to be for a lot of reasons, but particularly in this work because it has the fastest growing millennial population of any major U.S. city. And it also has the highest poverty rate of any major U.S. city, and so you have these two trends that are diverging,” Hart said. “We are a business that’s trying to speak to both.
“We’re only going to be able to hire a handful of people when we get started,” Hart added. “So we’re not fixing poverty by any stretch of the imagination. But I think that we’re hoping to show people that there doesn’t have to be this divide in these trends. Everyone can occupy the same space and be fulfilled in it.”
The brewery is part of a burgeoning trend of local, socially conscious businesses — including Quaker City Coffee, Wash Cycle Laundry, Common Grounds Cafe,the Monkey and the Elephant, and We Make — that aim to employ people with barriers to meaningful employment.
Hart and her partners haven’t set a target opening date yet.
They’ll have stiff competition, right out of the gate, with Love City Brewing, Roy Pitz Barrelhouse, and Yards Brewing Company all within walking distance.
But “we’re sort of going with the rising-tide-lifts-all-boats model right now,” Hart said.