“Money’s the great equalizer,” Steve Barnett said.
They all had a common goal, regardless of allegiances: To make money and have careers outside of their past experiences. That was the early promise of the TRU Colors concept.
Barnett, an initial hire at TRU Colors, said this in a 2017 Business Journal story detailing a new idea for a Wilmington-based brewery employing gang members. He was expressing why he didn’t think having rival gang members at the same workplace would equal in-fighting.
Because there was common ground.
Tapping into the fast-growing beer brewing industry, TRU Colors would take side paths into employment apprenticeships, media production, a recording studio and other non-beer-related activities attempting to address its social-impact side.
Then, in September of 2021, the company launched its first beer, a lager that was distributed in stores and backed by the name recognition of Molson Coors, which had acquired a minority stake in the company.
A year later, the outside-the-box concept appears to have reached the end of the runway.
On Sept. 7, founder and CEO George Taylor abruptly announced that TRU Colors – with its 55,000-square-foot brewery, taproom, offices, etc. on Greenfield Street – would be closing within days.
I can’t speak to what happens after Sept. 7 since we send this issue off to the printer tomorrow morning, or whether there’s a next chapter coming for TRU Colors, but as of today, Taylor said the brewery’s last day of operations was Sept. 9.
There’s a long list of reasons behind the decision, which by now have already been reported on, debated and commented about.
So, instead, let’s talk about the workers who do have next chapters to figure out however things work out.
When TRU Colors was first presented publicly at a Cucalorus Connect, it was pitched as a private sector attempt at addressing a social solution to gang-related violence in Wilmington.
The model was not fully embraced by all top law enforcement officials and community grassroots leaders who had been working on the issue for much longer. But it was an attempt at innovating an answer – a shake-up approach to try something new against a systemic issue. You can decide whether it was the right path or not.
Looking forward, the question is what is now the right approach for the workers without positions and paychecks? And the question extends beyond just TRU Colors employees as the Port City continues to find its footing on a lengthy history of addressing post-1898 impact ripples.
“Money’s the great equalizer,” can mean more than just one thing depending on whom you ask.
Many suggestions have come from many corners. But there’s still work, it seems, for solutions.
Maybe another common ground can be defined.