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PROVA! and Brockton Beer Company: From Pop-Up to Permanent

Success Story

An ambitious public space activation strategy that was born from community members’ desire to have a space that resembled a Cape Verdean Plaza, harsh market realities, and a years-long frustration of trying to attract a brewery, PROVA! brought a community together to “prove” that all types of people would come to downtown Brockton for a fun and safe time in the evenings. PROVA! also showed that the city didn’t need to attract a brewery from outside of the community – it would serve as the catalyst for a homegrown venture, Brockton Beer Company. Four years later the community would come together again to help Brockton Beer Company open its doors in a permanent location on the site where the first season of PROVA! took place.

In 2016, the first full year that downtown Brockton was designated a TDI District, the City of Brockton received an Urban Agenda award from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to conduct a feasibility study for a shared commercial kitchen and start-up space for food businesses. Brockton TDI Fellow George Durante, in collaboration with the Brockton TDI Partnership, managed this technical assistance, which was led by Ninigret Partners. The study produced two critical findings. First, a restaurant incubator was going to be very expensive and would ultimately need an operator who did not need to make a profit from the space. Second, a restaurant incubator could not survive if it was the only destination in the neighborhood, which meant that Brockton needed to first build a supporting ecosystem of restaurants in the downtown.

While the feasibility study was underway, George Durante was trying to recruit breweries from the surrounding communities to relocate or expand into Brockton, a city of 100,000 people that did not have a brewery. Repeatedly, each brewery owner, often citing safety concerns or not believing that there was a market for craft beer in Brockton, met the proposal with skepticism.

In 2017, Aminah Pilgrim and Anita “Leny” Monteiro of Sabura Youth Programs, met with George Durante about their vision to recreate a traditional Cape Verdean Plaza in downtown Brockton. They wanted to see a place activated with pop-up shops, food, entertainment, and a water feature. As the conversation continued about what this concept would look like, the original idea from Aminah and Leny was fused with the findings from the restaurant incubator study and the negative experience related to attracting breweries, as well as with a community need to break through cultural silos in the city and desire to highlight potential redevelopment sites in the downtown.

A community coalition was formed to make PROVA! a reality. It included Sabura Youth Programs, NeighborWorks Housing Solutions, the City of Brockton, the Brockton Redevelopment Authority, and Brockton 21st Century Corp. With the goal of launching in summer 2018 on a vacant site located at 121 Main Street, which was slated for redevelopment by NeighborWorks, PROVA! would operate every Thursday and Friday night from July through September and feature a rotation of local restaurants and entertainers. Shovel Town Brewery, from the neighboring town of Easton, who also became an active member of the operating partnership, would also anchor PROVA! as the craft beer vendor. Both the brewery and the restaurants would report sales data for each night of the pop-up and attendance numbers were collected for future recruitment of food and beverage establishments. PROVA! received a $50,000 Commonwealth Places award from MassDevelopment in early 2018, which required a crowdfunding match. Through the community at large and strong support from the Brockton TDI Partnership, a collection of Brockton business leaders that was led by Bob Rivers, CEO of Eastern Bank, PROVA! crowdfunded an additional $84,500, for a total of $134,500 to build and operate the site for the summer.

A few Brockton families who were friends had thought of the idea of opening a brewery during the evenings when they would get together to play board games. When these families attended PROVA! they asked themselves the question “why aren’t we selling the beer here?” The families began to work with TDI Fellow George Durante to identify potential locations downtown where their business – Brockton Beer Company – could open its first tap room. More than a year passed without any promising locations, but Brockton Beer Company had started brewing and selling beer at events throughout the city. During the planning for the second year of PROVA! Brockton Beer Company asked if it could operate the site on Saturdays, with Shovel Town Brewery still serving on Thursdays and Fridays. This helped Brockton Beer Company gain local market exposure and experience. 

During that second season of PROVA! NeighborWorks was preparing to start construction on a mixed-use building on the site where PROVA! was first hosted. The organization would have available ground-floor commercial space in the building but had not yet secured a tenant. NeighborWorks saw the importance of Brockton Beer Company opening downtown and agreed to lease this future space to them. Once again, the community rallied together to help Brockton Beer Company finance the city’s first taproom. The owners had equity in the project and ran a very successful MainVest campaign to raise additional capital, but there were still major financing gaps to be filled. NeighborWorks went above and beyond to help advance and maintain the project. The City of Brockton and the Brockton Redevelopment Authority contributed resources and MassDevelopment provided a $430,000 loan from the CARES Act Revolving Loan Fund to close the gap.

While the building was under construction and the financing was being finalized, Brockton Beer Company took over the role of primary craft beer vendor during the third season of PROVA! Under the leadership of Emily Arpke and the full-time infusion of Brockton Beer Company, this was PROVA!’s most successful season. It is during this time that the Brockton Beer Company enhanced its brand, fine-tuned the quality of its beer, and honed its ability to serve at beer gardens. In the face of supply chain shortages and cost overruns related to COVID-19, Brockton Beer Company completed the long and difficult journey to open Brockton’s first brewery in June 2022. On a mirror in the middle of the brewery are written the words, “Crafted for Community.”

The story of PROVA! and Brockton Beer Company exemplifies the importance of building strong community partnerships and highlights why TDI focuses on supporting quick and actionable projects, rather than waiting for the “homerun.” By clustering small wins that are rooted in the needs and assets of the community, it’s not only possible to create lasting economic impact, but it may reveal a local solution that has already been brewing under the surface.