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Two Women Take a Bite Out of the Minnesota Brewing World

Urban Growler Owners with Eugene Cornelius, SBA Deputy Associate Administrator

SBA Guaranteed Loan Helps Ensure Hard Work Pays Off

In 2008, Deb Loch and Jill Pavlak dreamed of starting the first woman-owned brewery in Minnesota. Five years later when they founded Urban Growler© Brewing Company, they added those years of hard work, a wealth of experience and SBA financing to make the dream a reality. The Urban Growler’s taproom and restaurant is a hub for friends and families to share more than just a pint together in Saint Paul. They live their mission - to bring people together through beer – and the community is richer for it.

Prior to starting Urban Growler, Deb was a biomedical engineer by day and a homebrewer by night with every spare moment going to brew new recipes or designing new equipment for the process. That led her to quit her successful career in corporate America, become an assistant brewer at Minocqua Brewing Company in Wisconsin during the week and retail associate at Northern Brewer in St. Paul on the weekends.

While Deb dreamed of brewing great beer, Jill was focused on the food.  Many microbreweries don’t have on-site restaurants and in doing some market research, Jill discovered that it can be a barrier to customers coming and or staying at a location. Some local breweries try to address this with food trucks but that is not always a reliable option since they have no obligation to show up when they have promised to. Plus with the unpredictability of Minnesota’s weather, having food service inside seemed like a no-brainer to Jill. Like Deb, Jill quit her lucrative corporate sales job and managed a restaurant and worked in liquor stores to get the experience she needed to make her dream of opening a taproom restaurant a reality. 

The road to business-ownership-dreamland is not without its share of nightmare scenes and one of their biggest challenges has been access to capital. In spite of their success with acquiring both community support and a large amount of start-up capital through fundraisers like “Taco and T-shirt Nights,” Deb and Jill struggled to get bank financing. In fact, they went to 12 banks before finding Matt Chmielewski, a banker at Pioneer Bank in Mankato, one and a half hours south of their location.  Matt saw their vision, experience and capabilities and helped them through the process to get an SBA loan to help with their start-up costs.

Fast forward three years and the Urban Growler is an extremely profitable business with 60 employees thanks to the time, talent and dedication Jill and Deb have poured into it. In the works are plans to add an event space and expand their brewing capacity to meet the demand at the taproom and local pubs and SBA financing is in the final stages of approval.  Helping small businesses succeed, creating jobs and wealth in our local communities is why the SBA was founded in 1953 and remains so important to today’s economic landscape.   

Company Name: 
Urban Growler
St. Paul, MN