One of Jon McConaughy’s favorite quotes comes from a business article he read recently: “Doing good is good business.” An earlier article from Forbes begins with the same quote, and follows with a question: “But can you prove it?”
Based on several successful community-oriented businesses started and run by McConaughy and his wife/business partner, Robin, over the past several years, the answer appears to be “Yes.”
McConaughy, who grew up in Ringoes where his parents owned a business painting and selling watercolors of local scenes, is a graduate of the University of Colorado with a degree in finance. In the early 2000s he and Robin were enjoying success in the corporate world, Robin as a recruiter, and Jon, as a funds trader for Credit Suisse. Their life was good, but then they read an article in the New York Times magazine by Michael Pollan about the life of an industrial-raised steer.
Disturbed by the conditions of factory farms and standard slaughter house practices, the couple began exploring the idea of producing their own food, and as soon as they were able they purchased land in Hopewell and in 2004 started Double Brook Farm. The did not become vegetarians, but McConaughy says that when it is time to end a farm animal’s life, it is done in a method that does not cause the animal stress or pain. (See brickfarmmarket.com/press).
Since starting their farm, the McConaughys have become the owners of several Hopewell-area businesses including Brick Farm Market, Brick Farm Tavern, and others.
McConaughy will share his story at Princeton’s Springdale Golf Club on Thursday, July 14, from 7:3 to 9:45 a.m. in a panel discussion titled “Revitalizing & Repurposing in the Region.” Sponsored by the Princeton Chamber of Commerce, the event costs $30 for members and $40 for nonmembers. Register at www.princetonchamber.org or call 609-924-1776.
The other speakers on the panel are Jamie Herring of Herring Properties and Jeff Siegel of ML7. Representing the Brick Farm Group, McConaughy will discuss six Hopewell properties:
Double Brook Farm comprises more than 800 acres of land that the McConaughys own or rent around Hopewell Township. The family lives on a parcel of 100 acres that includes their home and farm buildings and is contiguous to the family’s restaurant, Brick Farm Tavern. Their farmland also includes 250 acres they rent from D&R Greenway at St. Michael’s preserve, 150 acres off Carter Road and 200 acres in Ringoes.
The McConaughys started the farm in 2004 and were involved in building and overseeing the construction of their home and barns. Originally, their intent was to raise and grow food for their own family, but as friends began asking if they could purchase their meat and eggs, they expanded the farm’s output to accommodate the requests.
Brick Farm Market at 65 East Broad Street opened in 2013 as a farm-to-table market offering meat, dairy, produce, and bakery products from the McConaughys’ farm and local sources. The renovated market building is the original Malek Chevrolet facility, a 1930s-era brick shop. The McConaughys say the market allows them to interact with the public that likes to know where their food comes from and how it is made.
Brick Farm Tavern at 130 Hopewell Rocky Hill Road was established in 2015 offering farm-to-table dining with a menu based on the food grown or raised at Double Brook and also other area farms. With a seating capacity for 125 guests, the restaurant includes individual dining areas and a full bar. The renovated building, dating back to the 1800s, was once a family home.
Troon Brewing, McConaughy’s latest venture, is anticipated to open within the next several weeks. The McConaughys are renting the facility, an 1800s-era barn located on the same grounds as their tavern. Owned and run by Alex Helms, the brewery will include a small package store, and a tasting room. When Brick Farm Tavern is open, the beer will be on tap at the bar.
The old Sunoco building at 40 East Broad Street is the one business that does not feature food and beverage production or sales. Originally purchased to house a creamery, the McConaughys changed plans because of set-up complications. Today the building is a renovated office and retail space.
Off-Broadstreet Theatre/Hopewell Playhouse on Greenwood Avenue, now owned by the McConaughys and partners Mitchel Skolnick and Sky and Liza Morehouse, reopened after renovations this past March. Previous owners Bob and Julie Thick are still engaged in the theater producing live shows and a children’s series. The playhouse also offers a venue for concerts, parties, and special events.
Built in the 1940s, the facility served many purposes over the years: a community center, a theater called the Colonial Playhouse, and a Gallup polling site. In the 1980s the Thicks leased the site from Gallup, eventually purchasing it. Off-Broadstreet has served as a dessert theater for more than 30 years.
In a separate presentation, James P. Herring will discuss his company’s work in Princeton and Skillman.
Herring Properties has converted Princeton’s former medical buildings on Witherspoon Street to high end office spaces attracting new tenants including a venture capital firm, a yoga studio, and a mix of law practices, financial firms, and medical practices. Herring is also building a retail and office space that will feature a restaurant, and other businesses. Construction is expected to be completed in early spring 2017.
In Skillman, the company has done major work at 23 Orchard Road, including renovations to the existing property, construction of affordable housing and condominiums, and construction of a 1.3 megawatt solar array.
Jeffrey Siegel from ML7 will discuss projects his company has completed or that are in progress in Princeton and Yardley, Pennsylvania. ML7 specializes in redeveloping historic and other buildings of interest, and creating unique office environments.
The Tannery in Yardley was formerly the Century Leather Enameling Company, established in 1902, and later was home to a dyeing machine company and a bolt and screw company. Renovated by ML7, today the property is available as office space offering a fitness center, an arcade lounge, on-site back-up power, and other amenities.
In Princeton, on Witherspoon Street, ML7 is reimagining the former Army/Navy building with new floor plans, storefront and better designed spaces. At 211 College Road East ML7 will install a newly designed facade with grand entrance, a renovated lobby and elevator, landscaping and parking lot upgrades and new tenant spaces. The property has a back-up generator for secure uninterrupted power supply. In the recent past ML7 renovated the former Lahiere’s restaurant, developing the site for Agricola Eatery, apartments, and shared office space.
Although each presenter will speak about properties unique to his business, they all have at least one thing in common: a desire and a track record for saving and revamping old buildings not only to restore or improve their appearance but to enhance the quality of life within the community. Adding a slightly different twist to his original comment, McConaughy says, “What is good for the community is good for business.”