Things break. It’s the natural lifecycle of things. However, when your lamp breaks, unless you’ve got a yen for mechanical engineering, you buy a new lamp. When something like our centrifuge breaks, for example, it’s a whole other story. We could either pay to have someone come down here and fix it, or we can have someone on payroll to make sure it doesn’t break in the first place.
That’s why, over the past few months, we’ve been looking for a Maintenance Technician to keep an eye on the vast amount of equipment around here. With Rob Page, we found our man.
“We needed someone who knew a little bit about everything,” says Hank. “Rob has worked with just about all of our equipment at some point in his career, so he could come in, ready to hit the ground running. And he totally has.”
“Right after high school, I took a job with the local air conditioning guy,” he tells us. “I worked with him for a while, then worked with a union mechanical contractor, got accepted into the apprentice program and did four years of the program.”
Since then, he’s pretty much worked in the HVAC realm as a service technician for large accounts.
“Schools, hospitals,” he tells us. “Rutgers University, all those dorms and all that. Big projects.”
He was the guy you called when you were opening a gigantic new building and needed to make sure that the heating system wasn’t going to make the building more apt for growing papayas than operating on someone’s ankle.
In the 80s and 90s, as technology became more prevalent, Rob got into building automation.
“The service manager from my first company gave me an offer to go do building automation,” he tells us. “Basically, that’s when something like that…” — he points to the ubiquitous heating/cooling unit overhead — “…is controlled by, instead of a thermostat, a little sensor on a wall connected to a computer system somewhere in the building, and everything is networked. The facility manager can sit at home and dial up his building and change the temperature or get alarms.”
Rob was on the cutting edge of the Internet of Things before that was even a thing.
“We knocked Channel 13 off the air one time,” he recalls, laughing. “Not too proud of it, but we had a little mishap with one of their chillers, and we knocked the system down. Channel 13 went black for a while.”
He was also a really busy guy — needlessly so — in the lead-up to Y2K. (For our audience members too young to remember, the Y2K Problem was a completely made-up issue resulting from programmers in the 70s deciding that they could save some computing memory by only using two digits for the year, leading some people to believe that computers would interpret 1/1/00 as January 1, 1900. Doomsday scenarios were commonplace, with people building shelters and convincing themselves that the end was near. In the end, nothing happened.)
“My account that I was working on at the time was a big trading firm in New York City,” he says, “and they wanted me there just in case their rooms started to overheat. That was a nice overtime gig for about a year for nothing to happen.”
Regardless, Rob is a big fan of traveling, remembering a trip to Cancun as one of his favorites.
“Instead of just hanging out at the resorts,” he recalls, “we rented a Jeep and headed out to all the Mayan ruins. We explored and went to Chichén Itzá and all of the pyramids and all of that stuff out in the jungle. Forget the shore and the resort — we spent four or five days going out on our own.”
“Freshwater is my passion,” he says. “I go fishing as much as possible. I stay local around my house.”
Rob moved down to South Jersey in 2002, working for The Borgata, running the Facilities Department for eight years.
“I’ve been fishing since high school,” he says, “but moving down here gave me more places to fish. I always had boats, but now it’s just a kayak. Now I’m just a kayak guy. My kayak’s on the back of my truck.”
Rob loves hockey and baseball.
“Moving down here in 2002, I was introduced to the Philly fans,” he jokes. “Being from Central New Jersey, I’m a New York City sports fan, so the Mets, the Jets, and the Rangers are my three teams.”
At this point, he’s used to the Philly-NYC rivalry, though.
“The last place I worked, the Mets and the Phillies played a three-game series,” he recalls, “and we got swept. I came to the office and there’s a big broom nailed to my door.”
When it comes to music, Rob had some chances to get out and see some great bands when he was younger.
“Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, the Eagles,” he says. “But I just saw Bob Dylan about a month ago. But I like a little bit of everything, but, with my kids, I can’t keep up.”
Rob and wife Sherry have two: Dylan — “just like Bob Dylan” — a 19-year-old who’s a freshman at Rowan studying computer science, and Alicia, a 15-year-old freshman at Egg Harbor Township High School, who plays soccer and runs track. Cooper — a rescued pointer mix — rounds out the family.
“My wife did a great job,” he says. “They’re honor roll students and good kids. Good kids.”
Even though this is his first time working for a brewery, Rob’s always been a beer guy.
“I love drinking beer,” he says. “We had a liquor store in Princeton and one in Hightstown that carried everything. I was never the guy who bought the same thing over and over, I was always trying this, trying that. It was nice.”
So, once the job opened here, Rob figured it would be a perfect fit.
“When I saw the job and saw that it was for a brewery, I thought it would be pretty neat to work for a brewery,” he says. “I’m a beer guy, but I really had no concept as to how beer is produced.”
When he came down for a tour and was able to check out our equipment, he quickly realized that he was familiar with most of it — he’d simply seen it under different applications. His previous job had been working as the Facilities Technician for Colgate Palmolive in their flavors and fragrance division, so much of the equipment was similar.
“Your kettles, your pumps,” he says. “Guys were basically using the same equipment with a different product. A lot of the equipment they were using there, I see here, just being used with a different application.”
He’d definitely been familiar with things like our huge cooler — “I had walk-ins I’d drive my truck into, they were so big,” — so a lot of that equipment was familiar to him.
“But the process is interesting,” he says. “Talking to the guys and asking them what they’re doing, I’m getting an understanding on how beer is made.”
He’s still a little far from being able to actually brew beer himself, though.
“But I’d like to be,” he says, “down the road. I’m still pretty green when I talk to those guys, but the equipment? I’ve been doing it for a while.”
Rob is, however, fairly familiar with Cape May: his mother retired to Lewes, DE, and his older sister is in Virginia.
“I’ve been taking the ferry forever,” he says. “I’ve been coming down to Cape May for a long time.”
As a fisherman, he’s found a lot of opportunity in Cape May.
“It’s a nice shore community,” he says, “at the southern tip of New Jersey. I love my commute. I hop on the Parkway and I’m here.”
Rob is looking forward to getting a better understanding of the industry while he’s here, and he feels fortunate to have joined us on a growth trajectory.
“The growth is one of the reasons why I came here,” he says. “I like that. I like the fact that it doesn’t look like it’s going to be stale. It’s gonna be fresh and exciting. I’m looking forward to all of the growth potential.”
And we’re definitely keeping him busy.
“I’m doing a little of everything,” he says. “Mechanical stuff, I’m doing any type of repairs that need to get done. They want me to come up with preventative maintenance systems, databases, and schedules for things that need to be looked at. Instead of doing catastrophic maintenance — or maintenance when it breaks — we can be ahead of the game.”
“I had the stout the other day,” he says, “and that I enjoyed. But the Cape May Lager, that’s a good everyday beer.”
Fundamentally, Rob is simply looking forward to his time here.
“Some of the equipment is new to me,” he says, “but I’m eager to get on with it. I’m very hands-on.
“Every day, I’m learning.”
Be sure to say hello to Rob the next time you see him in the Tasting Room!