I got my background at ZingerBug.com

Photo Courtesy of www.photos-public-domain.com


Saturday, November 16, 2013

The Truth About Yelp (It Sucks!)

One of the most difficult aspects of running any type of business is the multi-tasking and constantly having to decide what takes priority.   The modern day version of running a business includes managing your online image.  ???  That means keeping all your online reviews and postings accurate and honest.

So in the midst of our two month rise to new records, we noticed our "friends" over at Yelp weren't being so friendly.   We had so many guests tell us they enjoyed their experience and would be leaving 4 and 5 star reviews on the site, known for providing reviews and ratings for just about any type of business. In our routine check one day, we noticed we had gone from 5 stars one day to 1 the next.


A little more investigation revealed that all these wonderful reviews our customers had kindly taken the time to write were not there.  Scrolling down to some tiny print, we found the line "other reviews we do not recommend."   Nearly every single review that was about 2 stars had been moved to this obscure page, leaving us with a home page of 1 and 2 star reviews, including some from people, we don't believe were ever in our restaurant.

It was obvious we needed to do our homework on Yelp.  Well, they aren't exactly an ethical company - understatement.  What we found was that they are on the receiving end of multiple lawsuits for businesses who have been run into the ground as a result of Yelp "screening" positive reviews when they turned down Yelp's "offer" for paid advertising.

Translation:  if you don't pony up $$$ every month to Yelp, you run a high risk of them taking your stars and positive reviews away.

So what to do?   We're not exactly in the position to file a suit against Yelp, although we'd certainly love to.  We went back to the social media expert we'd hired for another business and she suggested the strategy of approaching this with humor, citing another business who had been Yelp-ized and put an A-frame sign in front of their business reading "Come In For Yelp's Most Bland Food."

Humor helps, although some people don't understand subtle humor and sarcasm.  Clearly.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Website, Menu and Hours

Zuckfoltzfus Website  For the Facebook challenged set, we've developed a home page only site.   It links directly to our FB page, which includes our menu.  It also links directly to Openmenu which has our weekly menu offerings.  

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Coming Soon ...

Well, folks. its been three busy months since we got our license and had a moment to blog.   In the next few days, we'll be transforming the blog to talk about our menu, including both food and beers.  Until its done, you can find our menu on our Facebook page by clicking the little green icon under the cover photo to the right, or by searching us on Openmenu.com  

See you soon!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The One We've Been Waiting To Write

Almost one month ago today, we found out there were not one but two petitions filed against the issuance of our brewpub license, the one that allows us to fill your pint glass and you to drink it at Zuck's.    The past month has been one of the most stressful of both our lives, as we fought to open our doors after eight months of pouring every moment and penny into our business. There were serious doubts we'd financially make it through the hearing the PLCB anticipated being in about four months.

Also during this past month, nearly 1,000 of you came out to support us by commenting, liking, sharing, signing our petition and contacting anyone you could think of who could help us.  You came out in droves to buy and fill growlers, to stay and have a meal with a stinkin' "mocktail."   So many of you came in and said "we heard about your story and we're hear to support you."  Before anything else is said, we have to say "thank you."   You gave us hope in some very dark times and we'll never forget the active, vocal supporters who have rushed to our side.

As of this morning, the only remaining obstacle in our way, the remaining petition filed by a neighbor, has been withdrawn.   The PLCB is in receipt of his letter and has stated there are no other outstanding issues preventing the issuance of our brewpub license.  From this point, the letter goes to a chain of command through three supervisors and to a final board for stamping because of the proximity of the church to us.  This is the policy the PLCB has in place for any establishment opening within 300 ft of a church.  We're lucky our church neighbors are kind, reasonable people who have already provided statements they do not oppose our licensing.

According to PLCB, we are talking a matter of days, not weeks or the forecasted months, to have our license.    We have asked our connections within to keep us informed and to receive a copy via email immediately. And the moment we know, you sure will, too.

What can we say to you after an experience like this??  Perhaps the best thing would be that we chose our town for all the right reasons, something you've really shown us in full force this past month.  So let's get together in a week or so, fill a pint glass and toast to new friendships, good people and the future of our little brewpub.

Zuckin' Right!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Yes, It Can Really Happen Like This

Well folks, we've held off in updating our blog for the past couple weeks, hoping to write something with an ending paragraph along the lines of  "so we should have our tap license in our inbox within the next 72 hours."  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  

Last Friday, during what has become our routine of calling PLCB, we were informed one petition against us was withdrawn and was being "entered into the system" as we spoke.  We were also informed that because that one petition mentioned the word "church" we would still be going to a hearing on the one church within the 300ft radius of us, in addition to the remaining petition unless it was also withdrawn.

The church folks, who seem to be good and level headed folks, had already talked to our PLCB investigator face to face and given a statement that they were not opposing our license.   Since this still appeared to be an issue on the PLCB end, they quickly gave yet another one.   "Church" seems to no longer be an issue. Why create a state level fight between two amicable neighbors??  

Unfortunately (we realize how many times that word has been used in this post), we still have one remaining petition against us.  Nobody seems to have a connection to the one remaining petitioner to talk him down off the ledge, other than of course the one petitioner who already withdrew.  In today's not so happy phone call, this time with Senator Brubaker's office, it was confirmed there is no withdrawal on record for the remaining petition.  

Our case has yet to even be sent to the "legal department" to be assigned a hearing date.   It appears that original timeline of four months will be true.  Financially, things do not look good for us hanging on to our little brewery for that length of time.  We have been told that everything else for our license is in place, and if there were to be a withdrawal,  we would swiftly be in receipt of our license.  

We hate to end posts on a downer note, so on the positive note ... we're reminded daily of what an incredible community we live in.  Had none of this happened, we likely would have never met so many wonderful people.  The brewery, during its extremely limited hours open, has been packed with not only beer drinkers but also those who have said they don't really drink beer but heard of our plight and wanted to come in to support us.   There are moments in the brewery talking to these kind people that its hard to fight back the tears.   We know that had this happened to us in many other communities, the outpouring of support might not have been as generous.  Thank you, Mount Joy.   This is why we chose here for our little brewery, and our home.  

We're not giving up hope, although it is getting much harder to hang onto as the weeks pass by.   We'll keep pressing on every day, for as long as we can hold on.   We're good people, supported by good people.

Keep on Zuckin' .....

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Beer That Could Have Been Tomorrow

Our last post was May 17th, the day we found out our two neighbors seagulled us by filing petitions with PLCB to keep us from opening our door for tap sales.   If we thought life was a whirlwind before, well, it hasn't slowed down one bit ...

We've tried to quickly regroup, get our feet back under us and make lemonade, also known as the swill you peddle when your neighbors block the brew pub from selling its brew.    The Sunday following the petition bombshell, we opened for brunch and growler sales.  Empty growler sales.  All 72 growlers were sold within days, but we really only make about $1/each on growler sales.  We sold plenty of brunches and our profit was good, but not what it would be with the tap sales.   Not even close.   We opened Fourth Friday to sell the remainder of the growlers, which went.  We did some pretty strong food sales, too.  (People like chicken pies).  We opened during the parade and saw a couple hand fulls of people.  We opened Memorial Day to actually fill those growlers for the first time, and serve brunch.  Brunch sales were beyond light.   Growler fills were plentiful.   But Zucks can't live on growler sales alone ...

The financial ramifications of those two petitions are deep.  The beer that was to be sold on tap for $6/pint, is now at $4/pint to carry out in a growler.  The food sales, well, not many people will linger and eat when they can't drink.  The chef we wanted to hire, he won't be hired for months.  The daughter home to earn her food money for the entire upcoming year of college, that money no longer exists.   Wait staff, they won't be hired.   Amos has become a part time growler filler.  Sarah has become a cook, waitress, bus boy and dishwasher.   And then there are the fees to the lawyers.  That's all up front in order to get back some of the financial losses while we sit and wait.   (That ones worth it in our minds ....)

Over the past two weeks, our business plan has turned more into a "survival strategy."   The PLCB has been clear that these two petitions will cost us four months of time, sitting and waiting to get our tap license while we entertain parking speculations from the neighbors.  We have bills.  Lots of them.  If you think YOU have bills, add on the cost of opening a business to all the normal stuff.  The licensing process demands us to put all the money out up front, as if we were ready to open our doors today, and then be subject to "protests."  It makes no sense, we agree.  But it is what it is.  So for these four months, we've had to very humbly say "we need you to not only fill your growler and run, but sit and eat."   It isn't easy to put yourself out there like this when you're already being attacked from across the driveway, but people have been exceptionally kind and supportive.

We've found that our honesty and openness about our "situation" has brought out the best in folks, well, most folks.   Some incredibly interesting, bright people have shown up at our door or inbox, willing to eating chicken pies until they explode, and wash them down with that lousy lemonade.   Its what keeps us going right now, okay that and a healthy dose of financial desperation.   When that "everyone in town is against you" flashes through our minds, we look at our Facebook likes and petition signatures, growing by the minute now.   We think back to the kind inbox messages and diners who have come out.  And we know the truth.   You want us here.

Neither Sarah nor Amos is one to back down when they're wronged.  Not even a little.   In fact, it fuels our fire to keep going.  We don't bake cookies and deliver them to our enemies, nor do pack up our bags and go home.  We hunker down, prepare our case, and lunge forward.  So in addition to brewing beer, planning menus, filling meat pies, our days are spent fighting the good fight.  We'll get there, eventually.  And when we do, we know who was there the entire time supporting us.  And we know who the tiny handful of people fighting for our failure is.   (They'll be proven wrong)

Today should have been the day our brewpub license was approved, had it not been for the two petitioners. Tomorrow we would have all been sitting down together at the beautiful copper bar Amos built, sharing a pint, toasting to our success and new found friendship.  (This is the part that finally chokes Sarah as she types.)  Instead,  we'll be sharing a "Prohibition Pomegranate Cocktail" aka seltzer and juice,and a meat pie with the handful of loyal supporters.  We'll greet plenty of other people for growler fills as they rightfully head out the door to enjoy meals where they can actually enjoy their Zuckfoltzfus brew WITH it.

All the while, we'll keep fighting to get that license.  We hope this process will end up being worth it to those couple folks who unfairly judged us, gossiped about us in another local shop, unsuccessfully rallied against us behind our backs.   We're good people, with good people supporting us.  800+ of them.   At the end of the bitter battle, there will be a sweet victory, with some fabulous beer and amazing people we can call our friends.

PS - We know these posts tend to get shared and printed, delivered around town.  Always happy to give you something to chat about.

Keep on Zuckin'

Friday, May 17, 2013

Got Beer?

If we had a $1, wait, if we actually had $6 for every one of those questions ... Since our last posting, it might as well have been about a year that has blown by us. We've submitted the last of our applications: PA agriculture to manufacture beer, health department and PA state brewpub. We've had all our inspections and passed each and every one of them. We became licensed as a restaurant. We've spent thousands of dollars, completed and stocked the interior of the brewery. Our days, weeks, months have been pretty exhausting to bring us to this point. And while there have been a few points that in exhaustion, we thought "we'll never make it,"  the support from our ever-growing fan base has helped carry us through. Okay, desperation is also a good motivator! , We've had several people contact us and say "I want to do this, too. Tell me how." Well folks, its just not that simple. Don't do this alone, have a partner. And if you have a partner, make sure its a rock steady relationship because you are in for some stress. Real stress. Make sure you like ramen noodles, because there's some of that in your future, too. And make sure you're ready to hear opinions. They're like asses. Everyone has them and the ones you don't want to have thrust up on you, well, those are EXACTLY the ones who will. But along the way, you'll also meet some fine folks who will dilute the asses. For Sarah, yesterday was a real low point dealing with them. But at one point, a fan and neighbor wrote on our wall "I'm glad my business is in your neighborhood." Hey, I'm glad you took a moment to write that. Good, positive people should speak up. We have a list of those folks to tell you about, but with little time, we'll only share one in this post. He is perhaps the nicest man we've met in a long time, good, honest and a man of his word. When the Z's first entertained the idea of 12 South Market Street, we weren't so sure how the contractor and building owner, Brian Ebersole, would receive us. Brian has been at points for us the guiding light. His unique head down, tilt to the side and eyes over the bifocals has become a welcome sight in our life. From day one, he has been exceptionally gracious and helpful. He's been with us every step of the way and we are forever thankful. If you ever have the opportunity to meet him, do. After a lot of stress, disappointment, tears, screaming and pushing,(Amos has been a wreck) today we finally received our PA state brewery license. This is tremendous news we've been waiting to hear and share with you all. What that means is we can now legally brew. We can also sell kegs, sixtels and fill growlers. We'll be opening some limited hours for food sales and growler fills and encourage you to PLEASE come in. The food sales and growler fills will be the only thing that keeps the roof over our heads until our PA brewpub license comes through. Our bad news is that some exceptionally unkind neighbor has decided to try to prevent that from happening, likely costing us several months and tens of thousands of dollars until we can open those taps. But we're counting on you, and we know we can. Mixed into this week's chaos was also an order for growlers. Minimum order was 72 of them. Up front. "Can I just fill someone elses growler?" Umm, yes, you can. You can also support our new business, struggling to stay open until a hearing allows our taps to open, and just buy a growler from us and fill it. Ultimately, we just want to see your smiling faces. Okay, and some of your smiling presidents on cash, too. We'll be open for brunch this Sunday. Quiche, bacon, muffins and jam. We make great coffee, too. Come in and see us and pre-order your growler. Your $20 when you purchase breakfast really does help us. And after all these months of rather anonymous following, won't it be nice to share a cup and finally get to meet each other. We thank you, tremendously, from the bottom of our hearts, for being good, open minded, gracious and welcoming folks. The Zucks!