April 25, 2016
Jerome Parnell had been coming to Smith Mountain Lake since he was a child and eventually took the plunge to move to the lake in 2005. It wouldn’t be until five years later that his new business adventure in Franklin County would get underway.
While working in the pharmaceutical industry, Parnell’s consistent traveling around the country provided lots of opportunities to try different craft beers. He had a few experiences that made him recognize that the lake would be an interesting place to market a local beer.
Knowing that the lake was a test market at best, Parnell made a small investment and contract-brewed a beer locally in Roanoke. He later licensed that beer to a wholesale company he started.
With the test market proving to be a success and with Parnell’s theory that the lake would be a great environment for the beer, it was time to find just the right location at the lake to build a proper brewing and manufacturing facility.
“The benefits of Franklin County outweighed any where in the area,” explained Parnell, on deciding where to open Sunken City Brewing Company. “I was taking a chance and continue to be challenged by starting a manufacturing plant in a rural area, but ultimately, Franklin County offered the best opportunity. Primarily because of the utilities, including being able to hook in to the Westlake grid, access to good power, water and sewer and road access to main routes around the state.” added Parnell.
“So I knew Franklin County offered all the elements I needed to start a brewery,” added Parnell. “So I realized I could take this risk in a rural area at the lake and it could all work,” added Parnell.
Franklin County was able assist Parnell with getting his business started by providing funding in the way of service funding, paying for hookups to utilities and more.
Parnell hopes to give back to the community that has supported his brewing business by making the brand reflective of the area.
“I want to assist with getting the area’s name out there, which is a secondary goal of ours,” said Parnell. “Franklin County and Smith Mountain Lake are both reflected in the Sunken City branding.”