Author: Phil Dignan & Andrew Greenman, ’10
Story photo courtesy of Streetcar 82 Brewing Co.
The Gallaudet Innovation and Entrepreneurship Institute (GIEI) inaugural business pitch competition, held June 10, 2016, brought eight teams made up of deaf entrepreneurs together, among them a team made up by Jonathan Cetrano, ’07, Development Office annual giving specialist, Mark Burke, ’94, and Sam Costner, ’00, who with two others on the team, came to the competition with a business plan for a brewery.
Although they did not win the top prize, they did share the honor with another team as audience favorite.
"We got the audience vote," said Costner. "This gave us the confidence...it motivated us."
In July 2018, Cetrano, Burke, and Costner opened Streetcar 82 Brewing Co., located in Hyattsville, Maryland. They named their brewery after the streetcar line that ran along Rhode Island Avenue from Downtown D.C. to Maryland from 1888 to 1958, once passing what is now the current homes of Cetrano (Eckington), Burke (Hyattsville), and Costner (Woodridge).
"We all came together, and Mark pitched the idea of setting up a brewery," said Cetrano and Burke. "We all liked the idea, did the research, and it made sense. And we just continued on with it."
They held their grand opening on September 7 to celebrate a successful soft opening.
Each of the three brings varied expertise which together has brought them to celebrate the opening of their brewery.
Costner's background includes working in investment, working in his family's business, serving as a deaf services executive director, managing teams focused on enterprise accounting, and being involved in relay business such as Purple Communications.
"Right now, our focus is to build cash flow, expand job opportunities for other deaf people, and provide more job opportunities."
While Costner worked to get the finances needed to start up Streetcar 82, Burke brought beer brewing expertise. Cetrano developed the business plan. The lease was signed in August 2017, and doors opened this summer.
"I have been homebrewing for 12 years," said Burke. "I met Jon while we were at MSSD. We coached and played rugby together. We started homebrewing here and there, and then I got the idea to set up a brewery from Professor Tom Baldridge (Department of Business). Jon was one of the people I called to set up a company to establish the brewery."
"My area of expertise in this business is the paperwork and the writing," said Cetrano. "I was responsible for getting all the licensing together as well as the actual incorporation of the business."
By opening Streetcar 82, the trio joined the craft beer culture of the D.C. Metro area.
"Some other local breweries were a big help and provided support," said Costner. "Right Proper Brewing Company in D.C. helped us, as well as another brewery in Maryland. The Brewery Association of Maryland, as a resource, offered much support and help. Craft breweries often do support each other."
But while Streetcar 82 enjoys the camaraderie it now has with the area's brewing culture, it embraces its connection with the deaf community foremost.
"Really, people will come here to get the experience that may not see elsewhere; a intimate deaf community feel-it is our valued community that makes us special," said Costner. "Bottom line-we value the deaf community. So far, our beer reviews have been positive. Deaf people leave with a smile. It is a good feeling for us."
"Streetcar 82 is building a bridge between the deaf community and other communities," said David Day, ’08, Model Secondary School for the Deaf teacher and regular patron of the brewery. "As this brewery is deaf-run, they are a model to the deaf community and can give other deaf people advice on how to start a business."
Providing opportunities to the deaf community through internships, employment, and outside services is another priority.
"It is not often that deaf people work for a brewery," said Costner. "We are lucky to have that opportunity. It is also nice to get their perspectives as well. We plan to add more internships to help with accounting, promotions, operations, and even a chemist."
Zane Pederson, who currently is majoring in Business Administration, recently completed an internship with Streetcar 82. He now works as a beertender and assistant brewer.
"I was very fortunate to be given an internship opportunity at Streetcar 82," said Pederson. "I felt the internship offered at Streetcar 82 was the right fit for me for my graduation requirement. I learned more about business operations, financials, and certain laws, as well as brewing. It was a rich experience for me from the beginning, and I'm still learning as a staff member. I am excited to see where this experience will take me in the future."
The opening of Streetcar 82 reflects the growing entrepreneurial pulse of Gallaudet alumni and the deaf community.
"I am so proud and thrilled for Streetcar 82, especially as they received their inspiration from the GIEI first pitch competition in 2016," said Ryan Maliszewski, GIEI director. "Starting a brewery is one of the toughest things to do in the D.C. area, next to starting a restaurant. I had the pleasure of asking these guys to be entrepreneurship mentors. They have also been responsible for helping revive the Hyattsville local community as well as bringing people together over a cold pint."
The grand opening was held on September 7. From left: Burke, Cetrano, Boyd Rutherford, Lieutenant Governor of Maryland, and Costner.
Community members cheer as the grand opening commences. The Streetcar 82 logo can be seen in the upper right corner.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Maliszewski.
Update effective December 7: Streetcar 82 has been featured in the Washington Post. You can read it here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/goingoutguide/this-hyattesville-brewery-wants-to-make-great-beer--and-serve-the-deaf-community/2018/11/30/5db1ed64-f1a4-11e8-aeea-b85fd44449f5_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.b80abd5caaf0.