Birth of a Beer Wall
Josue Matos ’19 didn’t just use his business administration degree to get a job after graduation, he turned his capstone project into a career.
by Steve Neumann
Josue Matos is very familiar with Reading, Pa., having spent virtually his whole life here, from one end of 13th street to the other. Beginning at 13th and Union Elementary School, he then went to Northeast Middle School, followed by Reading Senior High School and then finally, Albright College.
It was at Albright that he turned a capstone project idea into an actual business venture, one that neither the Reading area nor Pennsylvania at large has seen before — Beer Wall on Penn, a self-serve taproom he’s opening this spring with a team of talented partners.
“This whole idea took form in December of 2017,” Matos says, “which was right around the time we really had to start thinking about a business plan for our business administration capstone project.”
Every field of study in Albright’s School for Professional Studies has its own version of a capstone project required for graduation, and Matos’s project was tied to his business administration cohort.
One night, Matos and a colleague from his cohort were at the Pike Café in downtown Reading when she mentioned that her son had just come back from California raving about a self-serve beer wall.
“I went home that night and did a little research,” Matos says, “and realized that this had not been done yet within the Pa. market.”
“I knew if I could put together a strong business plan, I could find some investors to back the project.”
The first person Matos contacted was Alex Row, with whom he had worked at Penske Truck Leasing while getting his degree at night. The two had always talked about being business partners one day.
Joining Matos and Row are Joshua Andrew, the former general manager at the Liberty Taproom, and Dustin Shank, branch manager at Fidelis Mortgage Corporation and husband of the agent who helped find the property on Penn Avenue in West Reading.
When patrons walk into Beer Wall on Penn, they’ll show a valid ID and a credit or debit card to receive a radio-frequency identification (RFID) “beer card.” Instead of waiting for a bartender to deliver a full glass of each new beverage they want to try, customers can wet their palates with a multitude of smaller amounts.
“It’s interactive,” Matos says. “You get to touch the screens and read about the beer or wine or other drinks, all while trying them at your own leisure.”
The beer card technology comes from Illinois-based Pour My Beer. It tracks every pour and tallies everything up, so that each customer can print out a ticket to pay a tab. And to keep things from getting out of hand, each customer is limited to either 32 or 40 ounces per session. Hitting the limit automatically deactivates the card, allowing Beer Wall on Penn to use the same discretion as bartenders at traditional bars.
Beer Wall on Penn will feature 38 taps. At least five taps will always feature domestic brews and five other taps will be for wine. The remainder will be devoted to craft beers from different parts of Pennsylvania and around the country.
“We will have a full service bar, too,” Matos says, “with wines and cocktails for people who don’t want beer.”
Beer Wall on Penn will feature a dining area with a full menu and a lounge area with its own beer wall on the second floor. The menu will offer traditional bar fare, but with more of an upscale finish, like a gastropub. “We hope to have five locations in a couple years,” Matos says. “We want to spread this idea around the state because it’s self-serve, it’s new and people are already so accustomed to being on their tablets and phones.”
Albright business instructor Bonnie Rohde says that Mato’s class efforts stood out to her. Though regularly an engaged student who participated in lively class discussion, Rohde especially remembers one particular class discussion about a video on Thomas Friedman’s “Globalization of Higher Education.”
Matos says the video made an impact on him. “Friedman encourages us to think like immigrants and stay hungry, think like an artisan and take great pride in your work, to always seek knowledge, never think of yourself as ‘finished,’ and always think like an entrepreneur.”
As Rohde points out, Josue is “tapping into” Friedman’s recommendations with his entrepreneurial venture. Follow Beer Wall on Penn on Facebook.