Foundry Street entrepreneurs set up new business in Waterbury — Waterbury Roundabout

Since taking over the former Aztlan location on Oct. 1, Jacqueline de Achaval and Jennifer McCabe-de Achaval have been hard at work remodeling the 1,200-square-foot space to bring their empanadas to more people in Waterbury and beyond.

Once open, Paprika will offer takeout counter service and seating for about 20 customers to enjoy empanadas, wine and beer on site. A large kitchen, new equipment and a loading dock shared with 40 other businesses on Foundry St. will allow Paprika’s wholesale business to grow. A new empanada machine will expand capacity from 800 empanadas a day to about 2,000, according to the owners.

The opening date and retail days and hours are to be confirmed. “Really, it’s done when it’s done,” Jackie said. They anticipate hiring three to five new employees to support the retail business.

Meanwhile, Paprika will continue its event catering services and expand its partnerships with venues such as breweries, ice rinks, universities and event spaces. Jackie sees Paprika filling a gap for establishments that want a convenient food service solution that isn’t labor-intensive and doesn’t require building a kitchen.

McCabe-de Achavals are planning 10 new empanada varieties covering most dietary needs. Unlike the current empanadas, which have a different shape for every taste, the new machine creates a single shape that is stamped with initials indicating variety. Eventually, the menu may expand to include soups, salads and packaged hot sauce. “The possibilities are endless,” Jen said. “We can play and explore while we have the safety and consistency of the empanadas.”

Paprika was able to sustain its business while under construction thanks to its unique partnership with neighboring Stowe Street Cafe leasing its lower-level kitchen to Paprika until November. Stowe Street Cafe owner Nicole Grenier is both supporting Paprika and looking for other food entrepreneurs to potentially fill that space after Paprika moves.

“The entire team at Stowe Street Cafe is thrilled for Jackie & Jen! They have worked incredibly hard for this opportunity and we are all very excited for what lies ahead,” Grenier said. “As for the cafe, we are currently reviewing inquiries from small food businesses to see if we can assist them with access to licensed commercial kitchen space for their processing and production needs and possibly using our space for evening pop-ups .”

Collaborative relationships have helped Paprika grow, from the Stowe Street Cafe to the branded clothing printed by Factotum Designs next door to their roster of wholesale partners. “Waterbury is full of hardworking passionate people who care,” said Jen. “These companies create fantastic cultures that we mirror in ours.”

There’s also camaraderie in shared challenges in this tight-knit small business community, she added. “Sometimes things feel tough when we’re running a business … you go to these places and it feels like a hug.”

Meanwhile, the legacy of Green Mountain Coffee Roasters at 40 Foundry Street is not only felt in the spirit. “We were wondering where all the coffee pots came from,” Jackie said.

The Tropic Brewing is aiming for a winter opening

Behind the brown-paper windows downtown at 40 Foundry St. brothers Mark and Zach Gordon are working to get The Tropic Brewing ready to open. The couple took over the 2,400-square-foot space in 2021 with plans for a brewery and a small taproom to serve beer and light food on site. Once complete, the space will have a four-barrel brewhouse and a 350-500-barrel capacity cellar, each holding 31 and a half gallons of beer.

Their backstory?

Mark held leadership positions in the Vermont Maple Sugar Growers Association and Cape Cod Cranberry Growers and took up homebrewing as a creative outlet. After attending courses during the COVID-19 pandemic to learn the science of brewing, he and his brother decided to start their own business.

The origin of the name is twofold. Matt and his brother were inspired by the ingredients, imagery and culture of the tropics, as well as the etymology of the word ‘tropic’, which means ‘bend’ or ‘change’. For Matt, it symbolizes the personal changes inherent in starting a new business and the differences he envisions for his brand and beers.

“There’s a lot of heritage and tradition in brewing,” he explained. “And at the same time, there are many new scientific advances and the technology for growing malt, barley and hops has taken off. We want to do that in a way that embraces this new technology.”

This distinctiveness is key to The Tropic Brewing standing out among the many regional breweries. “One of the real hallmarks for us that we think about as we test different recipes is not to get tired of the taste,” Matt said. He cites drinkability and repeatability as key considerations, with most beers below 5% alcohol.

Asked recently about the opening date, the brothers replied nonchalantly, “Six months ago?”

Like much of the business startup experience, plans have evolved in the face of realities. The Gordon family had to overcome unexpected obstacles, including electrical upgrades and supply chain delays. Now that they’re aiming for a winter opening, they need to finish the outfit, finalize the plumbing and electrical work and secure a final permit.

Despite the challenges, Matt said he enjoyed the creative aspects of starting his own business, from product development to branding and marketing. Taking lessons from his previous work experience, he said, “We hope that we grow and create a culture where we have people who are excited to come in, buy a beer, come out and be excited to work there as well.”

Looking at the big picture, Matt describes Waterbury as a place that embraces creative entrepreneurial opportunities.” He pointed to the constant flow of people through downtown from tourists to local Vermonters. “Waterbury offers great things for people to do. It has a vibe and an energy that makes it seem like it’s worth investing in,” he said.

It’s also exciting to grow a business in a place you can call home, Matt added. “We wanted to embrace being here in town and supporting this town. We are building a business, but also a personal life.”

Sandy Yusen is a freelance writer and resident of Waterbury.

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