Bar Night to brewery: Starting a business together post-Middlebury

By HANNAH BENSEN

COURTESY PHOTO
Cayla Marvil ’13.5 (left) and AC Jones ’12.5 (second left) in the backyard of the Beach House in Middlebury in December of 2012. Also pictured: Emily Hammel ’14 (second right) and Emme Ackerman ’13.5 (right).

Cayla Marvil ’13.5 and AC Jones ’12.5 had been dating for only six months when they decided to open a business together. A few years later, the couple co-founded Lamplighter Brewing Co. in Cambridge, Mass.

Marvil and Jones were first officially introduced to one another in a classic Middlebury setting: the basement of Two Brothers Tavern, when Marvil was a senior and Jones a super senior. They began dating in the fall of 2012. Upon Jones’ graduation, and his subsequent realization that he was “chronically incapable of having a boss,” the pair began thinking more seriously about opening a brewery.

COURTESY PHOTO
The outside of Lamplighter Brewing Co.

“We both were home brewers and loved beer,” Marvil said. Inspired by the burgeoning craft beer industry in Vermont and with some encouragement from Middlebury friends, Marvil and Jones recall having an “Ah, screw it! Let’s do it” mentality. The pair saw an opportunity in Cambridge because there was not a huge brewery scene there yet, according to Jones.

From conception to completion, their business idea continued to be shaped by Middlebury influences. In the original crew of around eight who pursued the idea, five or six were friends of theirs from college. When asked if there were any aspects of Middlebury that prepared them for running a brewery, Marvil answered with little hesitation.

“Drinking a lot in college,” she said with a laugh. She then added, “I think truthfully, everyone at Middlebury works so hard all the time, so it brought this work ethic that’s been incredibly important in opening our own business and needing to spend 16 hours for 20 days straight doing something. The work-hard, play-hard mentality [that exists at Middlebury] is pretty prevalent in brewery culture, too.”

Though brewing and bartending are certainly part of the job, Marvil and Jones have come to realize the importance of managing employees and building relationships in a business.

COURTESY PHOTO
Workers unpack a supplies van at Lamplighter Brewing Co.

“Before the coronavirus hit, we had 54 employees,” Jones said. “I think one of the really valuable things that we came away from Middlebury with is this respect towards each other and knowing how to deal with people.”

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the taproom at Lamplighter has closed until further notice and 38 employees had to be furloughed. Sixteen employees remain working full-time.

COURTESY PHOTO
Cayla Marvil and AC Jones with their dog Barley Smalls, the honorary CEO of Lamplighter Brewing Co.

The couple said that respect and trust play an important role in demarcating the boundaries between their personal lives and their business relationship. Though the couple said maintaining a work-life balance is a bit more difficult and working together occasionally has some downs, their shared entrepreneurial spirit and complementary skill sets makes for a good partnership.  While Marvil takes on the financial planning, administrative tasks, human resources, and marketing and strategy, Jones “does a lot more hands on work– designing, building, repairing things, as well as focusing on conceptual ideas and larger picture strategy and thinkin” said Marvil.

Lamplighter has come a long way since the idea was born in 2013, and in December of last year, the couple were named to the Forbes “30 under 30” list for Food and Drink in 2020.

“I wouldn’t want to do this with just anyone else,” said Marvil.

“The business or the relationship?” Jones asked Marvil.

“I guess both,” she answered.