The Ruhstaller / PRIDE Industries Story

Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.” That’s what J-E Paino did, creating success for Ruhstaller beer which, in turn, creates employment opportunity for individuals with disabilities at PRIDE Industries.

In the late 1800’s, a Swiss marksman, Captain Frank Ruhstaller, immigrated to Sacramento and paired his passion for beer with the region’s rich resources, helping to found the largest brewery west of the Mississippi.  With plentiful fresh water, hops and barley, and transportation by barge and train, the Sacramento region became known as the pre-prohibition beer capital of the west. At the age of 35, Ruhstaller opened his third Sacramento brewery, his crown jewel: The Ruhstaller Brewery.

Fast forward more than 100 years, and a UC Davis student, J-E Paino, becomes involved in a real estate project that introduces him to Sacramento’s rich brewery history. At school, he attends an unrelated presentation by Mike Ziegler, President and CEO of PRIDE Industries, who speaks to the group about entrepreneurism, and how it drives PRIDE’s mission to create jobs for people with disabilities.

As budding entrepreneurs, Paino and his partner, Peter Hoey, set about revitalizing the Ruhstaller brand. With intense competition for shelf-space, making your product distinctive and immediately recognizable can greatly increase sales and success. By happenstance, J-E was on a tour of the region’s last commercial hop ranch and noticed hops stored in burlap sacks. The burlap spoke to him as a symbol of what the region represented to him and the original brewers: the work horse of California. Used in shipping, construction, landscaping and agriculture, burlap was the fabric of strength, supporting fine finished products.

Photo Credit: Ryan Donahue

Like most start-up entrepreneurs, Paino put in long hours with little staff, and lots of personal hands-on. As a result of his inspired discovery, this now included the labor-intensive job of hand-wrapping individual bottle necks with burlap. There had to be a better way! While automation could be an eventual option at larger volumes, J-E remembered Mike Ziegler’s presentation, and the work of PRIDE Industries.  PRIDE creates employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities in its own award-winning business enterprises, and by partnering with others in the community. At PRIDE, J-E found a quality solution, pride in execution, and a manufacturing partner that could scale with the growth of the brand. Consumers will now find the distinctive burlap bottle necks on all of the Ruhstaller products.

And there you have it. A school project and chance meeting end up restoring pride in a historical brand; a discarded material adds fresh appeal; and the combination creates employment opportunity for people with disabilities.

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