Most who grow up near New York City dream of trading their suburban life for the big city. Chris Basso and Paul Halayko, however, were unlike the average suburbanites: The two 31-year-old Washingtonville, N.Y., natives found their dreams not in the big city, but in their home county, Orange. More specifically, they found their dreams in a 160-year-old paper-box factory along the Hudson River in Newburgh, N.Y., 55 miles north of New York City.
Basso, who had been a brewer at the Brooklyn brewery, and Halyako, who had been working in finance, teamed up with Chris Benedetti, who also had a background in finance. The three then set their eyes on Newburgh to start their brewery, Newburgh Brewing Company.
Although Basso asserts that he always had his heart set on brewing in Newburgh, he says that the main thing that drew him upstate was the affordability. Financial realities are a crucial point for a young business. Basso says: “if you were to transplant this exact building and everything that goes with it to Brooklyn… it would’ve been so far out of reach, it would not have been feasible.” But his city-savvy dexterity should pay off, as he believes that “…if you have a little bit of vision and a little bit of money you can come in, take an existing structure and turn it into something.” After all, think of how Williamsburg and Bushwick were before they developed: filled with warehouses and factories, sure — but with lots of potential.
Newburgh, it turns out, may actually possess many qualities that make it ideal for a young brewery. It’s close to highways I-87 and I-84, making it easily accessible for visitors from all over. Halayko attests that there are few places in New York State that are better for manufacturing than Newburgh, and Basso believes that Newburgh is close enough to New York City to take advantage of city commerce, without having to actually deal with the cost of being located in New York City proper. Taking ownership of a factory in Newburgh provided them with the opportunity to buy rather than pay rent (which would have been the only viable option in the city). Owning their space outright has enabled them to be more creative with the old factory building without the typical approvals a landlord might require. This has allowed for more creativity and potential growth; they have enough space for a beer hall and manufacturing facilities, on top of the brewery itself.
While Newburgh has a great distance to go until someone calls it the next Bedford Avenue, the rehabilitation of Newburgh is well under way. If Basso, Halayko and Benedetti are correct, a brewery is enough of an attraction to make urbanites want to take a hike upstate.
To learn more about Newburgh, check out “The River of Opportunities – the City of Newburgh” website.