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People who make a difference: Trent Snyder

Business owner, volunteer, coach – Pints with a Purpose, Mr. Claus, Toys for Kids

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February 10, 2023

DOOR COUNTY – “Those who can help, should.”

That’s the mantra Trent Snyder – head brewer and managing partner at Bridge Up Brewing Company in Sturgeon Bay – said he lives by.

“I wasn’t always able to give back,” Snyder said. “Now that I can use my platform of being a successful business owner, my wife (Amanda) and I can give back. There are people who can give that aren’t, and there are probably people who can’t give, but are.”

Snyder said if everyone who could do something would, “we’d live in a much better place.”

“Many businesses give back, but we need to spread the word,” he said.

Snyder, a 1995 Pulaski High School graduate who participated in basketball, football and track, said part of the reason he wants to give back to an area he knows fondly is because he’s had to overcome hardships of his own – especially when he was younger.

“You can overcome anything you put your mind to,” he said. “I grew up in Door County during my younger days, but my parents got divorced. I moved with my mom to Green Bay and was with my dad on the weekends. I went to an east side school, and then my mom moved to Wyoming – I came home from school one day and she was gone.”

What happened next, Snyder said, was the first step in “someone helping me make it through life.”

“My mom’s sister – my aunt – took me in,” he said. “I had spent some time with her before and was close to her three kids – my cousins. It was a natural transition, so I moved in with her. She had the pleasure of raising her three kids and me through middle and high school.”

A valuable lesson
After graduating from Pulaski, Snyder received an athletic scholarship to attend Minnesota State University-Moorhead for football and track.

“I went where I got the most money (for a scholarship),” he said “I wanted to be far enough away where coming home would be a chore. I’d never heard of Moorhead before. Once I got there, I realized why I think God forgot about that place – there’s not a lot up there but wind. I had an incredible four years there – it was busy, but it was awesome.”

Snyder graduated with an education degree and then taught for 13 years in Minnesota.

“I was also a track, football and wrestling coach during those years,” he said. “(When I was young) aside from my teachers, my coaches were some of the most influential people in my life.”

Snyder said coaching was a great way to instill the values he learned as a kid with the kids he coached.

“For many kids, the only reason they go to school and keep their grades up is so they can play sports,” he said. “Coaching is a great way to step outside the classroom – you can be a different person on the football field or wrestling mat.”

Snyder said teaching and coaching also taught him another valuable lesson.

“Once I got older and wasn’t so egocentric, I became more aware of opportunities to give back,” he said. “I became more aware of the people throughout my life who gave back to me that I wasn’t even aware of. My family was a bit dysfunctional, so there were tons of people along the way – teachers, coaches, pastors, neighbors and friends – who helped me.”

After ending his teaching/coaching career, Snyder said he stayed in the Twin Cities for a few years – where he met his wife and started a family.

Trent Snyder

“We were outgrowing the home we bought when we were first married,” he said. “We couldn’t find what we wanted in the area, so we explored other options. Door County was a natural choice because my family ran a business for a lot of years, and I own a cottage there. Luckily, my wife’s job is remote. I had to quit my job in Minnesota – which I loved – but it’s been a great move.”
The next chapter
Years ago, Snyder said he started making home brews of beer – which eventually led him to where he’s at today in Door County.

“I was hoping to find a job that got me back into the community,” he said. “I couldn’t find anything in a timely manner – I started feeling like I wasn’t doing my part as a husband and father supporting my family, even though my wife had a full-time job. I took a job with a great company, but it wasn’t something I was in love with.”

Enter Jason Estes, owner of Sonny’s Italian Kitchen & Pizzeria in Sturgeon Bay.

“The brewery fell into my lap, so to speak,” Snyder said. 

Snyder said Estes – who is now his managing partner at Bridge Up – reached out to him.

“He had heard I’d been brewing beer on my own for about 15 years,” he said. “He wanted to chat with me about the possibility of opening a brewery.”

Snyder said he initially thought he was simply offering advice/knowledge to Estes, but it was more than that.

“Unbeknownst to me, it was more like a job interview,” he laughed. “He asked me all kinds of questions – how you brew beer, how much does it cost, etc. After a 90-minute conversation, Jason said, ‘I think you’re the guy for the job. I want to start a brewery, and you’d be a good fit.’”

Snyder said at first, he was a bit apprehensive.

“I had never made anything more than five gallons at a time… certainly never had anybody outside of my neighbors, friends and family drink anything I ever made,” he said.

Snyder said, at that point, he wasn’t sure he wanted to take the next step, but a trip to Southern California to visit a few breweries “sealed the deal.”

“I wasn’t sure I had the skill set to brew large-scale batches of beer people would drink,” he said. “The offer was for Jason to be a silent partner, while I got it up and going. I knew we’d have a small brewery, so the California guys were happy to chat with me. They all said the same thing: ‘We started like you did. A bunch of us were brewing our beer, and then one day, one of us got rich and decided to start a brewery. We didn’t know what we were doing either.’”

Snyder said he returned from California “confident we could do it.”

“Four or five years later, here we are,” he said. “That was 2018, going into 2019. I pretty much run the business – I do all the social media, recipe creation and most of the brewing. I clean kegs and equipment, work in the taproom and socialize with people. I have no complaints – that’s the fun stuff.”
Opening doors to giving back
As Snyder mentioned, owning a business allows him to give back.

“At Bridge Up, we do something called ‘Pints with a Purpose,’” he said. “It’s for Door County charities – I have groups lining up. Many nonprofit organizations in Door County do great things for people and the environment, etc. It made me ask myself, ‘What can I do?’”

That self-reflection, Snyder said, sparked the idea of “Pints with a Purpose,” which Bridge Up holds during the summer months.
“That’s typically our busiest time of the year,” he said. “We choose an organization, and then we choose a beer. We donate $1 for every pint of that beer sold in a given month.”

Trent Snyder, right, stands with Patty O’Rourke, Door County Coordinator of Big Brothers Big Sisters. The organization was a recent recipient of a check from Bridge Up’s “Pints with a Purpose” program. Submitted Photo

Snyder said an even bigger opportunity for him and the brewery to give back is through the “Toys for Kids” program.

“It’s like ‘Toys for Tots,’” he said. “The difference is, Toys for Kids supports people only in Door County – anywhere from babies up to age 80. The program collects unwrapped gifts or toys and stays local. That’s one thing about donating – sometimes you’re not sure whether the donations stay local or end up in a warehouse in another part of the country. That’s perfectly okay, too, but Toys for Kids donations are specific to Door County.”

Snyder said Toys for Kids at Bridge Up started small but has “exploded in recent years.”

“We started with a standard cardboard box where people could drop things off,” he said. “I’d put on social media, ‘Come in for a beer and bring your unwrapped gifts.’ We went from filling two or three boxes our first year to filling 14 boxes this past season. I don’t know for certain, but I heard it was the largest number of boxes filled at any location (in Door County). We’ve got some big (Door County) places that participate, too – shipbuilders and the hospital. It’s awesome to see the support.” 
Snyder said he and his wife also dress up as Mr. and Mrs. Claus during the holiday season.

“We get to deliver some of the toys to the kids whose parents signed up to have Santa deliver,” he said. “I am the Santa for Sturgeon Bay and do a lot of engagements during the season. Not too many towns get Mr. and Mrs. Claus – I’m a lucky guy.”
Snyder said if time allows in the future, he’d “love to get back into coaching.”

“I don’t have the time needed to do that right now,” he said. “Two years ago, we also purchased a roadside market, and now it’s called ‘The Door County Cherry Hut.’ We opened another Bridge Up taproom there, so it’s allowed us to sell more beer, which allows us to give even more back to the community. This will be our third season coming up with that.”

Finally, Snyder said, there’s another option to donate while inside either of the Bridge Up taprooms.

“You can come in anytime and find a donation box or two,” he said. “People are always asking how to give back – sometimes all it takes is to drop a buck or two into a box. Right now, we have one for the Door County Humane Society on the bar.”

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