By Barbara Smith, Contributing Writer
“Never settle for someone telling you what you can’t do.” For Timothy Parker, entrepreneur and master craft brewer, this credo has been his recipe for success. As the only black-owned craft brewery in San Diego County, his Chula Vista Brewery has become a mecca for craft beer enthusiasts and those eager to socialize in a fun, festive atmosphere.
Entering Parker’s inviting establishment on a recent Friday afternoon, it’s obvious why the Brewery has become one of the most popular businesses on Third Ave. Friendly conversation greets you as patrons sit at the long table, smiling, conversing and sipping brews. A chalkboard lists the cleverly titled tastes of the day from “Can’t Touch This Imperial Red” to “Browner Than Ivan,” 2019 Bronze medal winner at the Great American Festival.
Parker, a 20-year Navy veteran, acquired a taste for craft beers during his military travels. Returning home and settling in Chula Vista with wife Dali, he and his buddies grew tired of having to travel outside the South Bay to satisfy their taste for craft beers. With some home brewing experience and a passion for sharing the tastes of quality craft, in 2017, the Chula Vista Brewery was born.
Parker is keen on serving the South Bay community he loves and has filled a hole in bringing the art of craft beer to African American, Asian and Latino enthusiasts; communities typically not recognized as a craft beer market. He maintains close ties with the local military, who are frequent Brewery patrons, often hosting a friendly farewell to a member whose post has been moved to another area.
A creative mind and passion to get things done has fueled Parker’s business success. A big break came early on with a mentorship from the Samuel Adams “Brewing the American Dream” contest, which supports local food and beverage entrepreneurs with access to capital, networks, and business coaching. Their program helps with micro loans and other services for minority businesses in low-income neighborhoods. He took the skills they offered and ran with them. In turn, he has become a mentor for other small businesses getting started.
Parker attributes networking with the local community as one key to success. “As a business owner you are always building relationships…Go see your local community bank and build relationships there,” he advises, rather than going to larger institutions who may not be willing to take a chance on an unknown. “Talk to your local politicians and your local Chamber of Commerce because you never know when you might need to turn around and ask for help,” he adds. “I’m a big believer in positive attracts positive. If someone comes to you for help, I think you should give it because you get it back tenfold. A lot of small businesses do better when surrounded by other successful businesses.” In a business landscape that can be impersonal and cutthroat, Parker’s “pay it forward” attitude has served him well. His business has helped revitalize Third Ave. and he sees this as a win-win for all.
The Brewery struggled through the pandemic with closures resulting in employees having to be laid off. They still haven’t recovered fully from lost income, but Parker, a gifted thinker outside the box, pivoted and began selling canned beer and offering curbside pickup. “The biggest thing is to keep moving forward and to adapt to change,” he says. Now, with increased demand, Parker plans to expand to the South Bay community he loves with a second brewery scheduled to open in Eastlake in October.
The Brewery recently won a legal claim against the City of Chula Vista citing disparate treatment when they revoked his right to the parklet fronting his establishment. His was the only business on Third Ave. to lose its parklet, and Parker notes with some certainty that the person who targeted his business also targeted other minority businesses. The revocation resulted in lost income and time diverted from regular brewery activity. A groundswell of community support including help from activist Shane Harris’ People’s Association of Justice Advocates resulted in Parker being granted back his parklet along with having the City of Chula Vista offering a $15,000 rebuilding grant.
With an ever-growing craft beer market, Parker’s drive and innovation has created a winning brew.