Ryan Schlotter wears many hats: father, husband, brewer and, most recently, president of the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce. The 37-year-old co-founder of the Oyster Bay Brewing Company, which has been open for six years, plans to bring his success as a business owner to other businesses in Oyster Bay.
“The town has changed — there’s been a pretty big increase in restaurants and dining and nightlife, so we want to embrace that as much as possible,” Schlotter explained. “The town has embraced it as well, and we’ve noticed over the last few years [that it] has really transformed and become a destination to hang out and have a good time.”
Schlotter, along with his business partner Gabe Haim, 37, of Mill Neck, made the leap from home brewing to professional brewing in 2012 to, as Schlotter said, “bring as much businesses as we could to the hamlet.”
“We’re both big fans of Oyster Bay, so we wanted the town to do well,” he added, “which is why we chose the location we did instead of a warehouse out east or contract brewing it upstate like some other breweries do.”
Schlotter, who lives in Centerport with his wife and two sons, said Oyster Bay provided an opportunity to bring the brewing industry to an area in Nassau where there was previously a void. “Anytime you wanted to go visit a brewery, you had to go all the way out east to do it,” he said, “so we wanted to give people something on the North Shore [that] they could come and visit.”
Schlotter and Haim first met working at Rallye BMW in Westbury. After founding the brewery, the pair kept their full-time jobs for two years, leading to many late nights in the brewery’s early days, Schlotter said. After leaving their day jobs and getting the business off the ground, the pair moved from their original location on South Street to a significantly larger space on Audrey Avenue in 2016.
Today, Haim primarily handles the in-house brewing operations while Schlotter travels around the New York-metro area to promote sales and distribution of their 15 plus beer varieties. As the company has grown, so have its purveyors. In addition to local bars, restaurants and grocery stores you can find Oyster Bay brews in major sports venues like Citi Field and the Barclays Center.
Haim said it’s the differences between the two business partners that make Schlotter such a great person to work with. “A lot of people think having a business partner should be someone that sees the same vision as you . . . I think it’s better to have somebody that can challenge your thoughts so you both come to a better place,” Haim said. “As much as we agree on a lot of things, we disagree on a lot of things, and I think that’s really healthy for business.”
Along with the company’s ever-growing popularity, Schlotter increased his prowess in the community when he was selected as president of the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce in January. Embracing the hamlet’s increasing storefronts and nightlife, Schlotter said the chamber has adapted, rather than shied away from change.
“We’ve made it a point to support the changes that are going on,” he said, “and tried to get all the businesses that are here to be as successful as possible.”
To promote those new businesses, Schlotter has organized various fundraisers and networking events. At “Cruise Night,” residents park their vintage cars on Audrey Avenue among local musicians and food tents for a night of networking. The event gives chamber members and small business owners the opportunity to socialize. Schlotter said events like “Cruise Night” are important to keeping local businesses rooted in Oyster Bay.
Susan Dembo, secretary for the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce, said Schlotter’s “creative ideas” and understanding of the community make him a good fit for the position. “Ryan brings a very fresh perspective as a merchant since he’s been involved in the community for a number of years,” she said, “and he’s seen the changes that have happened.”
Dembo, a chiropractor, said Schlotter set up the online program “ChamberMaster” earlier this year for the organization’s use. The program allows merchants to enter and share their information with other businesses while “streamlining the administrative work of the chamber.”
Walter Imperatore, treasurer of the Oyster Bay Chamber of Commerce, said Schlotter’s presence represents “the new entrepreneur business owner of Oyster Bay,” which he believes has brought renewed interest to the hamlet.
“Ryan has the new and small business perspective, and that’s what Oyster Bay is built on,” Imperatore said. “Small businesses [that] are not necessarily the big box or the franchise market.”
Schlotter and Haim are also using the brewery to support the community that supports them by hosting fundraisers and donating gift baskets and beer whenever possible. “When you have that platform and that ability, it makes it nice to be able to find a way to support local charities and give back whenever possible,” Schlotter said.
Haim said Schlotter’s ability to “challenge the status quo” will set him apart as an effective leader moving forward. “Where you might find chamber organizations in other towns who say, ‘let’s just do things the way we’ve always done it because it’s easy’,” Haim said. “Ryan’s really good at saying, ‘well why are we doing it that way? Could we be doing it differently?’”