Brewery equipment is making its way into TRU Colors’ new headquarters on Greenfield Street, after a delay in the operational timeline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Soon TRU Colors, a for-profit company that hires Wilmington gang members to develop their leadership skills and promote their personal and professional growth, will start training employees to help run its brewery operation.
“We’re in the phase right now where a lot of the equipment is starting to show up … It’s starting to really look like a brewery,” said Brian Faivre, vice president of brewery operations.
Faivre, who was recently hired, will supervise 15 to 20 gang members.
This summer, the company is slated to start canning beer, said George Taylor, chairman and CEO of TRU Colors.
Taylor, a local entrepreneur who’s taken an interest in stopping local gang violence, works with a small group of private investors through TRU Colors to employ about 65 people and to outfit the new facility with the brewery, a recording studio, office space, a daycare and a gym.
About 50 of TRU Colors employees are local gang members or involved in the gang community, Taylor said.
Much work is left on finalizing construction on various parts of the TRU Colors building.
The company this year moved from under the roof of Untappd – a beer technology business started by the Taylor family – and into its own 53,000-square-foot headquarters building at 715 Greenfield St., formerly the old Century Mills site, which was purchased by TRU Colors for $950,000 in 2019.
Work is also taking place on laying out the recipe for its first brew.
“We’re really close to finalizing a recipe,” Faivre said. “Press, director of brewery operations, has done a lot of the small-scale test brews and it has gone through a few iterations. The direction we are heading toward right now is your classic American light lager.”
All canning and kegging will also take place at the facility, Faivre said.
TRU Colors has a goal to “build a national brand within two years,” Taylor said.
Taylor took an interest in the local gang issue following the driveby, gang-related shooting death of 16-year-old Shane Simpson in 2015. It was the catalyst of Taylor’s efforts to learn more about the local gang community and to help solve the greater issues behind gang violence through a private business. TRU Colors started in 2018.
“Our key goal as an organization is to stop street violence and unite communities. At the highest level, everything we do should be able to get tied back to those two goals. And in particular the first one: Our goal is to save lives,” Taylor said.
There are a variety of ways TRU Colors works on this mission, including with the curriculum team, which works through its Disrupt-U program on several different levels of personal and professional development for gang members.
The Disrupt-U program includes a 60-day boot camp, and gang members are paid $30,000 a year plus full health benefits, Taylor said.
When they finish the program, they become interns and their salaries rise to $35,000 a year.
Graduates of the boot camp will join one of the teams at TRU Colors, such as the brewery, marketing or sales teams, and have 90 days to earn their way into the business.
The pay scale, he said, moves up from there. And upon becoming a TRU Colors employee, there are also stock options available.
“The money matters. In the beginning, for a lot of guys, that’s the thing that brings them here is the money. What we see over time is the mission,” Taylor said. “Their own personal and professional growth is what keeps them here and keeps them moving.”
In addition, the company promotes its mission further through online media and music and video production.
The 34,000-square-foot brewery section of TRU Colors’ headquarters, once complete, will include 19 fermentation tanks and a six-vessel, 55-barrel brewhouse. Running on two shifts, TRU Colors’ brewery, which would be one of the largest in town, is expected to produce about 1.3 million case-equivalents a year, he said.
“We will have enough equipment to easily do 50,000 barrels of beer production a year. That’s a lot of beer,” Faivre said, adding that the brewery could build out in the future, by adding more tanks to its space, with the ability to go up to 120,000 barrels.
“If this really takes off like we expect it to, that just brings more jobs to the community, which is a great thing,” Faivre said. “The mission of TRU Colors is really what drove me to be a part of this.”
The company plans to announce a major strategic partner in the distribution arena later this month.
Among other goals, TRU Colors also plans to reach about 110 to 120 employees by 2022 to meet its hiring needs, Taylor said.
The interactions that people have with TRU Colors and its employees almost always change perceptions, he said.
“Everyone walks away scratching their heads. And that’s really – on a national level at scale – that’s all we can ask, is that it causes someone to reconsider,” Taylor said. “What we hope that people see is that these problems are economically driven and they need an economical solution, which means entrepreneurship is probably best suited to solve these major social problems much better than the government.”