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The new brewmeister

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  • | 11:00 a.m. April 17, 2015
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It's not much of a stretch to go from advertising to beer manufacturing.

At least it's not for Duncan Scarry, who built a hugely successful advertising agency in Fort Myers he sold to Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises in 2013. “Advertising is manufacturing,” he says.

Scarry's story is classic entrepreneur: He quit his job at 26 and started an advertising agency that targets auto dealers. Turned down by banks, he built the business with credit cards and his own savings. He eventually amassed close to 1,500 auto dealers as clients with annual billings of about $50 million.

A father of three young children, Scarry, who zips around in a Ferrari, now heads up social media for Cox's automotive division, which includes and auto auctioneer Manheim. He remains based in Fort Myers, where Cox has expanded the employment base to more than 100 people.

But now Scarry, 40, is equally ambitious about a new business he started with his brother-in-law, Bill Frazer. It's a brewery called Fat Point Brewing in Punta Gorda. “We want to be one of the top five brewers in the state within two years,” he says.

Frazer, whose longtime passion and hobby is beer brewing, runs the operation side. Scarry provides capital and lends management expertise. Scarry's already invested $2 million in the brewery, he says. That far outdoes the $500,000 he originally estimated it would cost.

Although the brewery includes a taproom with space for nearly 100 guests, this is a wholesale operation, much like other startup beer manufacturing facilities on the Gulf Coast. That includes Sarasota-based JDub's Brewing Co., where sales have doubled month over month since the fall. JDub's opened in February 2014.

Fat Point produces 260 barrels a month (the equivalent of 86,000 cans), which it sells in kegs and cans through distributors to restaurants, bars and liquor stores. That's a significant increase from the small batches it started delivering in May 2014. “That's all we can brew,” Scarry says.

Like JDub's founder Jeremy Joerger, Scarry has discovered there's a deep thirst for craft beer in Southwest Florida. “We far undershot the market,” Scarry says.

Revenues from wholesale operations and the taproom in the first year of operations totaled $2 million, Scarry says. A keg sells for $69 at wholesale and a four-pack of 16-ounce cans in stores sells for about $8. “We fully expect to double this within a year,” Scarry says. “We ordered 10 more fermenters.”

Fermenters are giant vats that brewers use to make beer. There's enough room in the Punta Gorda facility to triple or quadruple the current capacity, Scarry says.

Until recently, the only marketing Fat Point did was on Facebook. It spent $3,000 a month to promote the brewery there, where it had 19,613 followers through April 13. Promotions now also include television and print.

Scarry picked the name of the brewery because Punta Gorda, a Spanish name, translates to Fat Point in English. The best seller so far is Big Boca Ale, a light pilsner.

Scarry plans to grow distribution from Manatee to Collier counties, and the brewery may also expand to Tampa. While the alcohol-distribution regulatory scheme can be tortuous, Scarry says he's optimistic about potential legislative tweaks. “Most distributors are on craft brewing's side,” he says.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss


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