Voodoo Brewery in Homestead buzzed with excited employees on the night of May 4 when the company officially launched its new employee-ownership program. General Manager Jake Voelker and the ownership group spent a year working with financial advisers to develop the program that would best suit the company’s 17 employees. Eligible staff will now own stock in the business, with an increasing percentage over a six-year period.
Given the food and beverage industry’s high employee-turnover rate, Voodoo’s Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) is meant to reward employees who stay with the company and to inspire vested interest in its day-to-day operation. Voelker felt strongly about the program and rewarding his employees’ investment of time and dedication in building Voodoo. “This is a proud day for me. This is more than just a job; my employees are like a family,” said Voelker. Voodoo Brewery is now one of the country’s smallest employee-owned businesses.
With nine years under its belt, Voodoo was one of the earlier craft breweries in Western Pennsylvania. The original location is in Meadville; the Homestead location opened in 2015. The brewery also launched a food truck, doubled its brewing capacity and expanded distribution to all of Pennsylvania’s counties and into two new states.
Voodoo places a high priority on creativity and harnessing the ideas of everyone in the company to produce a superior product and experience. For instance, staff and management collaborate on events — including themed food-truck roundups — that happen weekly at both locations. The brewery’s motto is to create beers that are “fun, flavorful and thought-provoking.” Its products also tend to have a higher ABV than an average domestic. (The alcohol-by-volume content of Voodoo’s regularly available beers ranges between 7 and 12.5 percent.) The beer bottles are decorated with colorful labels and provide backstories on the product.
This move toward employee ownership shows that Voodoo is dedicated to making its work environment, like its brews, “fun, flavorful and thought-provoking.”