Why The Fridge is a Great Local Brand
Let’s start with the beer. There’s a huge selection and it’s good.
In fact there are ten constantly rotating craft beers on draft and 400 varieties of unique beer in the refrigerator. Then there’s hand crafted pizza with ingredients from local farmers; it was voted best pizza in Lancaster City.
Next is the on-premise experience at their snug restaurant on Mulberry Street. There’s a huge self-serve beer refrigerator, a pot-bellied wood stove, art on the walls, and a jumble of tables and high tops. The message is “help yourself.” You might have to share a table with others, as I did with a Lancaster mayoral candidate who just happened to be having a cold one by himself, but that’s part of the scene. Everybody gets it and shares tables, or offers theirs as they leave.
To understand The Fridge, it helps to understand it’s foundation story. Two local guys (Kevin Brown and James Futty) lost their jobs in the economic downturn and decided to risk everything for their love of great beer and pizza. They decided to follow their hearts toward what might make them truly happy and just “keep going until somebody said no.” No one did and The Fridge was born.
Like so many great local brands, this place was created by owners who care. They’re doing it because they love it and because they have a gift they want to share with others. They know what they like, they’ve created it, and now everybody gets to experience it.
Does this sound like a cliché? If it does, that’s because we’ve all heard words like it a hundred times in advertising for national brands that once had this type of integrity but likely lost it. National brands crave the authenticity and quality that local brands, like The Fridge, naturally have.
And of course there’s the community of people who love The Fridge. The seeds of today’s community must have given Kevin and Jamie the confidence to get started when they first shared their vision. And from those seeds a thriving crowd has grown for whom The Fridge is their “third space,” their “public house,” the place they go to be in community. And when that happens, a brand takes on a life of its own. It moves beyond a vision owned by the founders and starts to embody a shared one. Patrons of The Fridge feel like its “their place.”
That’s what happens with strong brands. That transformation is what branding is all about.
So what started with two individuals taking a big risk on their love of great beer, is now one of Lancaster’s community nodes, a gathering place, a focal point, a branch on the Lancaster tree.
The Fridge used to be my place to be with some friends who moved to Michigan. Last time I visited Ann Arbor, I surprised them with some Fridge coasters. We laid those out on their counter, opened some Michigan beer, and recreated the vibe that had brought us together in the first place- nights at The Fridge.