Bradenton's first craft brewery owners, Frank and Denise Tschida, have pursued their dreams with relentless determination, and—as a culmination of their efforts and experience—have given Florida craft beer lovers reason to rejoice. Denise shared the Motorworks journey and how they're making their mark on the Florida craft beer scene one pint at a time!
"We're both originally from the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. We moved to Florida 13 years ago to follow our dream of having warm weather all year long. Florida had much to offer, and because we already had investment properties on the Suncoast, it made our move a no-brainer.
The two of us both had backgrounds in the sports world; I was a professional figure skater performing in shows across the US, Canada and Europe, while Frank was on the race car circuit, touring the U.S. with Sprint Cars and NASCAR as a builder and mechanic.
Skipping ahead many years, and prior to opening Motorworks Brewing, we owned and operated a liquor store in Tarpon Springs. In doing so, we realized how few craft breweries were in Florida, so we took a leap of faith by selling our liquor store business and setting out to create a craft brewery of our own.”
Building a Dream
Denise and Frank searched for a year throughout the state of Florida, until they found the perfect location in Bradenton, oddly enough, not far from where they live. The building, constructed in 1923, was formerly a Chevrolet dealership in the 20’s & 30’s and later a Hudson car dealership in the late 40’s and early 50’s. Even though the building was in a blighted part of town, Denise and Frank saw the potential and valued the history behind the property. In January of 2014, after fourteen months of exhaustive build-out, Motorworks Brewing opened its production facility, Taproom and Beer Garden. The Beer Garden is Florida’s largest, complete with a huge deck centered around a massive 250+ year-old oak tree wrapped in glittering string lights surrounded by beautiful turfed lawn, music stages, a Bocce Ball court, cornhole courts and a 22' outdoor projection screen.
Denise shared some of the challenges they experienced early on and their unique strategy to overcome it: "Frank grew up on a dairy farm in St. Paul," she said. "His background, dealing with the inner mechanical workings of machinery, tanks, distributors, and helping his dad with all aspects of the dairy business taught him hard work, and most importantly: how to work with a liquid product. Having someone like Frank has been a key ingredient for us.
Nevertheless, we’ve had our challenges. For example, our production system didn't arrive until six months after we opened. Parts of our equipment were held up for a long period of time in customs. We had a sizable staff and brewers, assuming the equipment would be in place by the time we opened. Keeping payroll going in the early days was a challenge, but with plenty of guest beers on tap and patient customers, we got through it. Once we had the taproom and the production facility fully operational, challenges centered around educating new customers on the joys of craft beer. We knew there'd be some people not interested in craft beer, so to tackle that hurdle we secured a liquor license. For those initially a little skeptical about craft beer, the liquor license would get them through the door. Once in the taproom, our staff would introduce them to craft beer and help them explore diverse flavors they were unaccustomed to."
In addition to being one of only three other Florida craft breweries to offer patrons a full line of liquor options, Motorworks Brewing sets itself apart in many other ways. For starters, their beers are truly award-winning, having won medals at The Great American Beer Festival, World Beer Cup and U.S. Open Beer Championships. Furthermore, as Denise shared, a visit to Motorworks is not just a stop for a beer, it's an experience.
“We want our customers to experience the entire facility,” she said. “We work hard to make a true connection with our customers. Our beer garden is one of the premier beer gardens in the nation, and we host countless events such as weddings, fundraisers and private functions, and we have servers throughout the Taproom and Beer Garden to keep you from having to stand in line waiting on orders. Our overall focus is on creating a very warm, friendly and inviting environment with something for everyone to enjoy.”
An in-house marketing team, a production staff of 14 full-time employees, a large Taproom staff and five brand representatives have all worked hard to forge Motorworks Brewing’s reputation as a top contender in the Florida craft beer scene. Canning is done on-site and distribution has reached most corners of the state, with Motorworks’ beers available at locations such as Wawa gas stations, Disney, Publix, Whole Foods, Trader Joe's and Busch Gardens, just to name a few. The company culture can be described as creative, open minded and one where egos and stifling environments are non-existent. They love what they do, and it shows.
Notable Community Involvement
Motorworks Brewing is also extremely involved in the community, giving back to many local organizations through numerous fundraisers at the brewery, including events that raise money for the local Girl Scouts chapter and an annual “Oyster Social” that benefits local reef restoration efforts in Tampa Bay. Denise, and many of the employees, are big dog lovers. Accordingly, they’ve partnered with local animal shelters and the Animal Network to help raise money for their efforts. They also work with the American Cancer Society, the sheriff's department and have hosted cornhole tournaments to raise money for fallen officers and their families, disabled ice hockey players, local softball teams and more.
What it Means to Be a Florida Companies to Watch Honoree
“It's very humbling,” Denise said. “It's an accolade that allows us to look back and reflect on our accomplishments. We're always working and trying to remain focused on the goals ahead, so we don't always take a lot of time to look back. It's nice to be able to do that and it's a really cool thing for our staff. To know that we're being recognize for our hard work alongside other Florida Companies to Watch honorees is special.
I think we were ultimately selected because of how we set up our business in an area that was severely under-utilized, under-served and almost outright avoided, and helped to reshape this area of the community into a bustling hub for Bradenton’s growing nightlife. The whole area has seen considerable change and improvement, in no small part due to our decision to move our business there. We're very thankful for our employees and the embrace of our community for helping make this a possibility.”
Advice for Aspiring Entrepreneurs
“Put the best possible team around yourself, and tap into all of your past experiences, as both will help guide you through,” she said. “As they say, Rome wasn’t built in a day, so stay true to your project; you will only get out what you put in.”
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