Sometimes you’re looking for good help, and sometimes good help falls in your lap.
When someone with James Fox’s resume reaches out to you and inquires about a position that doesn’t yet exist, you bring him in.
“We were really impressed with his background and personality,” Ryan said, “and thought that he’d be a great fit. He really embraced what we do and had admired our culture, and wanted to celebrate that with us. It was a great opportunity to add leadership in production.”
“I was born in San Clemente, California, but I’ve lived all over,” he says.
Out of high school, he entered the Navy as an air traffic controller in San Diego.
“Air traffic controller work for the government wasn’t really my thing,” he says. “Government work kind of sucks the life out of you.”
While he was in the military, he once got stuck in El Salvador for four days on his own.
“I knew the most Spanish at that point than I ever knew in my life,” he laughs. “You pick it up quickly when your life depends on it.”
He was touring through South America when he needed to return home. The military got him as far as San Salvador before his commercial flight home was canceled, with no return flights for four days.
“I walked around, found a hotel, realized that my Spanish was actually pretty good,” he laughs. “It was an interesting experience.”
After the Navy, he wasn’t quite sure what he was going to do, so he went to school for mechanical engineering at San Diego City College, but, as many of us do in college, decided that he really liked beer.
“I’d been homebrewing for years up until that point,” he tells us, “but I decided that I liked craft beer, so I got a side job at a brewery.”
He was on the retail side of Stone, selling t-shirts and filling growlers.
“The retail side’s not really suited for me,” he says, “so I worked toward getting on the production line and took the first entry-level position I could.”
James is the poster child of working-your-way-up. Pretty quickly, he worked up to become the lead of the packaging line, taking over training while simultaneously taking a gig at a nearby brewpub as an assistant brewer.
“College kinda fell by the wayside a little bit because I was diving in headfirst into the beer industry because I loved it,” he says. “I was putting in hundred-hour work weeks in five days. It was not sustainable long-term.”
He burned the candle at both ends for about eight months until he was offered a job at Ballast Point’s new facility in San Diego.
“I crushed it for them,” he says. “I really helped them dial in that new system at the new facility.”
Ballast Point promoted him to managing their cellar operations on the West Coast.
“I killed it in that role for them,” he jokes, semi-seriously. “I saved them more money than they ever would have paid me in a lifetime.”
When Ballast Point opened their Virginia plant just outside Roanoke, James was the obvious choice to run it. He moved out to Virginia, running the place from top to bottom for about a year until Ballast Point sold out to Constellation.
“The company culture started to change,” he says. “It just wasn’t what I was looking for in the beer industry. It was a sad leave, but I wanted to get back into the smaller side of things. That was where I had the most fun.”
So, James threw his lot in with our New Jersey brothers up at Kane, spending eight months there, but he wasn’t truly happy there. He reached out to us to see if we needed any help. Luckily for both of us, we always need more hands on deck.
“The mentality and culture we have here was a lot more like Ballast Point when I first started,” he says. “A lot more of that family environment and mentality. A lot more personal relationships with guys working. You’re making beer for a living. How can you not enjoy that?”
Ultimately, the culture here is what sold him on CMBC.
“The people,” he says. “Everyone I met from the ownership down to the Tasting Room, everybody was real awesome.”
James actually points to Straight to the Pint and the employee profiles such as these as one of the selling points in his decision to come to CMBC.
“Actually, thanks to you, you sold me on initially applying,” he says. “I looked up a lot of the blog posts and read about the people here. The fact that the company puts effort into acknowledging team members, that stood out to me. It was more than, ‘Oh, hey! Here’s a new team member!’ You put effort into making it personal. It stood out to me a lot.”
Okay…. James is our new favorite person. Anyway….
He’s definitely enjoying South Jersey.
“I sort of had a negative image of New Jersey before moving out here,” he admits. “The media gives it a bad rap. I like the laid-back, beach vibes of Cape May. It’s a little reminiscent of San Diego.”
Although, he hasn’t really had the chance to make it down to Cape May proper, yet.
“I’d been there once, two years ago, visiting family that works out here,” he says. “But I’ve been commuting from Asbury Park since I’ve been here.”
It’s a “hefty” commute and doesn’t really allow him much time for socializing after work, but it’s essentially a straight shot down the Parkway. Nonetheless, he’s been borrowing his girlfriend Ariel’s car.
“She has a Honda Fit,” he says. “I have a Toyota Tundra, so I’d be paying so much more on gas.”
Regardless of the commute, James is delighted to be here.
“I’m excited to be in this sweet spot of growth,” he says. “We’re growing like crazy, which bring tons of challenges. It’s a little less daunting now that I’ve been through those challenges a few times, but it’s fun. Every day is new: new challenges, new equipment. You’re constantly growing the team. You’re trying to get the most out of the product, keeping quality high while meeting production volumes. It’s a fun challenge. I like it. It keeps it interesting.”
As far as hobbies….
“Oh, I have too many hobbies,” he sighs.
James used to play everything, sports-wise, while he was growing up, but now he doesn’t even watch them. However, he finds the time to race cars.
“Drifting, specifically,” he says. “That’s the big time-, money-, hobby-sucker right now.”
His car “started off as a Nissan 240SX,” but is now a “Frankenstein machine of parts from, probably, seven different vehicles. Seven might actually be an understatement.”
He transitioned out of team sports when he was younger, now gravitating toward extreme sports.
“Snowboarding, surfing, really anything with a board or anything with a motor, I’ve probably done it and hurt myself doing it,” he says.
Music-wise, he was into “post-grunge, but, more modernly, underground hip-hop.”
We needed a little more information.
“Yeah,” he says. “The more well-known ones are, like, Run the Jewels. I have a lot of obscure people. Or Atmosphere. That’s another one that’s probably pretty well-known.”
He also enjoys traveling, making it a point to visit the places that produce his favorite alcohols. (Which, by the way, is our new favorite way of picking destinations.)
“I’ve been to Tequila, Mexico,” he says, “I recently went to Scotland, I’ve been to Berlin. Not to sound like an alcoholic, but I drink every kind of alcohol. So, I went to drink wine in Sicily and I’ve been to Florence. I’ve been to Kentucky for bourbon.”
He’s not sure what’s next on the list, but he wants to go to Japan and check out some Japanese distilleries and sake breweries.
“It’s a fun excuse to travel,” he says.
And while James is loving the job here, he’s definitely loving the beer.
“That Aiding & A’Bretting is really good,” he says. “It’s a nice, interesting beer. It’s complex, fruity, but it’s simple enough that the individual hop character shines through nicely. It’s well-balanced.”
He’s also enjoying our newest core brand, Cape May Lager.
“It’s nice, refreshing, drinkable,” he says. “It’s a great after-work beer. When you put in a long day, the last thing I want is a 9% double IPA or a 12% stout.”
Essentially, James is definitely a California boy, transplanted into New Jersey.
“I enjoy life as it comes,” he says. “I enjoy what I do for a living. I don’t take anything for granted. I pretty much live by that. I don’t let anything wear on me too much. If you have a bad day, you’ve always got tomorrow.”
If you run into James in the Tasting Room — maybe after he’s had the chance to move down from Asbury Park — be sure to say hello!