Saw Works Brewing Company: A Story of Promise and of Promises Broken (Part Two of Two)

Saw Works Brewing Company, Knoxville, September 2015

(The first part of this article ran yesterday.)

As 2016 began, Saw Works had suffered considerable damage to its reputation with local vendors, suppliers and points of sale. It only grew worse as the year continued.

I spoke to several people involved in sales who reported promising deliveries of product only to learn they would not be filled because the needed raw materials were not approved for purchase, leaving empty taps or shelf space. A former salesperson showed me charts indicating sales were increasing, but shipments were not from 2016 into 2017. The potential was there to earn more money, but the materials for brewing were not being purchased in sufficient quantity to meet demand.

One sales representative willing to go on record, Jamie Updegraff, worked for Saw Works from January 2016 to May of that year. She worked with all vendors including restaurants, bars and grocery stores. Her initial employment interview was with Adam Palmer and Brant Enderle.

She was charged with covering sixteen counties in east Tennessee and was told she would be reimbursed for use of her personal vehicle, but that another vehicle was, “in the works.” She was also promised bonuses if sales grew.

She said she quickly learned that the Saw Works reputation was much worse than she’d been led to believe. Bar and restaurant owners expressed disappointment with quality levels, saying the beer had changed. Bars complained because they did not get beer they were promised, while stock was being diverted to cans to stock grocery store shelves. Long-term customers felt cheated. She also learned that below-par cans were being pushed to the grocery stores even when brewers knew they were bad, but were forced to send them out.

She convinced the accounts, as she had been assured, that these problems were in the past. Two months later another outage occurred because of a lack of funds for ingredients. Outages were often followed by mandatory eighteen hour work days in order for brewers to catch up once funds were released.

Saw Works Brewing Company, Knoxville, September 2015

According to Ms. Updegraff, product was returned by Eagle Distributing for being, “tainted,” and kegs were returned for poor quality. She would have to personally deliver new kegs to them, but eventually they lost motivation to keep a tap for the company.

She also says she was not given reimbursement for driving 7,000 miles in her personal vehicle – something she was promised in the beginning. She also wasn’t reimbursed $300 for expenses. She learned other employees were not being reimbursed, as well. She was told to start driving the company truck. When she finally got her reimbursement check, it bounced.

She also had to deal with vendors who had not been paid. She recalled one company who provided stickers for tap handles and were not paid for months. They continued to call her after she left the company, still seeking payment. Other former employees echoed her story of fielding calls, after their employment ended, from unpaid vendors.

By late May another paycheck bounced. A $1500 reimbursement check bounced. She received an apology and another check, which also bounced. The teller at Clayton Bank told her there was no money in the account. A call to the bookkeeper (Alliance P.S.C., an arm of Henry and Wallace) got an angry response, but the money was transferred.

Her tenure ended when she refused to work until she got paid. She and Adam had words. After leaving, she was forced to have a lawyer draft a letter to demand the final reimbursement she was owed. The company cut a cashier’s check the day they got her letter. She said it frustrated her that the money was there all along, but she had to fight for it every time.

According to Adam, and others, statements were made regarding the vendors to the effect of wanting them, “to feel pain.” Partnerships were formed and then broken. Black Sheep had an agreement with the company, for example, to provide barrels, and when the bill came due, Adam says he was told to find another vendor. In some instances, he said vendors were told checks were in the mail when, in fact, no checks had been sent. Companies began demanding cash in advance.

Where it all begins – Grains, Water, Hops – Action, Saw Works Brewing Company, Knoxville, June 2012

Of the continuing open sewage problem in the basement, Adam said it remained that way for an extended period because, once he was granted funds to fix it appropriately, contractors wouldn’t take the job because so many hadn’t been paid before and word had spread. It was, according to Adam, eventually repaired.

In December 2016, 708 E. Depot (home of Saw Works) and the brewing equipment was sold to Magnolia Corridor which is managed by Henry Sadiq. From that point forward rent was paid to him and the building will be turned over to his possession at the end of this month. The original plan for Saw Works, included new brewing equipment to be purchased by that time, which would be placed in Standard Knitting Mills. A tasting room was to be opened at Knoxville Center Mall.

Complicating matters, the license for Saw Works Brewing Company, LLC was revoked by the Labor and Workforce Department on 5/8/2017. The “agent,” for the business is listed as Walter Winchester of 800 S. Gay Street, attorney for Henry and Wallace. I spoke with a representative of the Labor and Workforce Department who confirmed that the company’s license with the state was revoked due to a lack of payment of unemployment taxes.

Saw Works Brewing Company, Knoxville, September 2015

A confounding report on WBIR in July reported that Adam Palmer said there were no longer plans (as had previously been announced) for the Saw Works tasting room to open a second location in the Knoxville Center Mall and that, “the company could not come to terms with the landlord.” The oddity there is that “the company,” (Saw Works) and “the landlord,” of Knoxville Center Mall (Knoxville Partners) are one and the same under different names, all connected to Henry and Wallace and Brant Enderle.

Further compounding the strangeness, Adam had been, by that time, removed from the company. The article also states, directly contradicting the previous statement, “Patrick King with Henry and Wallace sent a statement on behalf of Knoxville Partners, ‘The plans are still moving forward for Saw Works to move into Knoxville Center Mall.’”

On August 15, a new beer permit was granted to the new owners (when BAJM called the note, officially taking Adam and John Palmer’s portion).  I’ve confirmed that co-owners Millennium Capitol did not sign that request, as is legally required of all owners with over 5% interest in a business wishing to manufacture or sell beer.

For the moment, the company operating as Saw Works Brewing Company has a tasting room on East Depot. They must vacate the building by the end of the month and they no longer own brewing equipment.

After unsuccessfully attempting to have a local brewery brew their beer, they have reached an agreement with Fat Bottom Brewing Company out of Nashville to brew the Saw Works brand. The beer will be brewed and distributed from Nashville. The company, which once employed ten, now employs four people.

Patrick King, of Henry and Wallace, spoke to me by phone after publication of the first article. He pointed out that Saw Works was struggling from the beginning and that was the motivation for Adam Palmer approaching their company for help. The meetings described by Adam, he says, were meetings where Adam was asking for additional money, whereas the plan was for the business to become self-supporting.

He says that after several years of Adam requesting a long series of additional outlays, each of which were supposed to make the company profitable, Brant Enderle asked Patrick this past spring to look into whether this should be continued or the relationship should be ended by taking Adam and John Palmer’s share. They decided it was not likely to change under Adam’s leadership and called the loan, in which Henry and Wallace had invested over $700,000.

Regarding bounced checks, he says they were written against an account that should have been filled by Adam Palmer with funds from sales of Saw Works and the funds he received from BAJM. Expenses, he says, always exceeded income, with a common range being $3,000 generated in a month and $10,000 spent. I asked why a bookkeeper (Alliance P.S.C., an arm of Henry and Wallace) would be willing to write a check on an empty account and he wasn’t certain.

He  told me vendor relationships are important to them and that they will, “figure out what is fair and equitable for each vendor.” When asked, he said it would be fine for vendors who are owed money to contact them. He said the beer license is to SWB Holdings which does not include Millennium Holdings, saying instead their ownership is in the Saw Works brand and therefore they do not have to be on the license.

He says they intend for the beer to continue to be a Knoxville brand and plan to open a local tasting room as soon as possible. He said the company plans to, “unearth ourselves from seven years of mismanagement,” and that they believe it is something worth investing in.

Comments

  1. Looks like SWB Holding LLC is moving to the Henry and Wallace-owned Hull-Dobbs Building on N. Central. Two requests for beer permits on the latest Beer Board agenda:

    http://knoxvilletn.gov/UserFiles/Servers/Server_109478/File/CityCouncil/bb_agenda.pdf

  2. One If By Land says:

    I know more than most but certainly not all of it. I consider Adam a friend just to share where my alliance is. There are so much information that has been left out of this article because Urban Guy doesn’t have time to write a book. There are several comments here from people who have no connection to the situation and also by some who clearly have a close connection to the situation. Even those who appear to have a close connection really don’t know much.

    Dave Ohmer. He was fired from Saw Works and for good reason. Dave Ohmer, Chris Burger, Will Sherrod, and Jim Burger where all working on starting a separate brewing operation while working for and/or representing Saw Works. By accident one of the brewing equipment suppliers they were reaching out to was discussing their conversations in front of me. Chris and Jim were board members of Saw Works at the time. Anybody with sense can conclude how damaging this can be to a company and how an owner, once aware of the situation, would want to get rid of those involved.

    Jamie Updegraff. When selecting names for work shirt she chose “Double Entendre” and there isn’t much more to say about that. She understood from day one that all money came through Henry and Wallace. Her issue regarding lack of payment was never with Adam. At least that’s what the email said that I saw.

    Money. Since 2014 there was not one penny issued to employees, vendors, utilities, service providers, etc that didn’t have to be approved by Henry and Wallace/BAJM. Not one. Adam was the founder and President but had no control over the finances. Anybody who says otherwise is lying or wrong. Payroll checks were funded (or not funded), issued, and distributed by Henry and Wallace. Expense checks and the decision to furnish them or not…same. Vendor payments and the decision to furnish/fund them…same. It is easy to understand by people on the outside see Adam’s title and assume he had control of any of it. Adam was put in the position of having to do a “dance” on behalf of Henry and Wallace but it wasn’t in his control.

    Investment. Henry and Wallace didn’t invest in Saw Works. There is no way anybody who knows the situation can call that investing. Only Brant Enderle knows why he dripped money into Saw Works the way he did but based on his pattern of funding he could not have any reasonable expectations of getting a return on his money. The irony is that from the beginning Saw Works would have to overcome Henry and Wallace in order to succeed. It appears Brant Enderle wanted it to fail from day one. One can only guess as to why.

    Adam. Adam made several mistakes during his time at Saw Works, he would be the first to admit that. Unfortunately some only know him via Saw Works and his association with Henry and Wallace. That partnership was created based on information and promises made by Henry and Wallace that fell well short of initial commitments. Perception is reality however and Adam knows he is a part of that perception. Very few know the countless hours and sacrifices that were made working within the business or the countless number of product donations he made to the community (when he probably should not have). That story won’t be told but people that know him already know that story. By the way, up until recently Adam has personally paid some of the vendors that Henry and Wallace wouldn’t issue payment to.

    Henry and Wallace/BAJM/Etc. There are some very fine, hard-working, upstanding, people associated with this group. There are some flat out evil people associated with this group too. I think the previous comments have pegged those fairly accurately so I will refrain from going much further other than to say the leadership of that group is not good for the community. The folks still working for Saw Works are there for a paycheck which one can sympathize with the need to bring home money. They don’t want to be affiliated with Henry and Wallace and their desire to make a paycheck is greater than their desire to rid themselves from the evil that is Henry and Wallace. But I guess that their decision.

    Fat Bottom Brewing. The affiliation there is Patrick King’s brother-in-law has the rights to Worlds Fair Beer and is using Fat Bottom to brew and package that brand. One can only conclude that an introduction was made via that relationship. I know of at least two local breweries, Hexagon and Fanatic, that rejected the request from Henry and Wallace to contract brew the Saw Works brand.

    Saw Works was good for the community and they did help promote craft beer in Knoxville. It would be wrong to say that Saw Works had nothing to do with that. There is a lot of good beer being made here by a lot of great people. In the mean time I will continue to patronize the great beer producers in and around Knoxville. Cheers!

    • Elizabeth Perez Tenorio says:

      I do know that while I waited for payments numerous weeks that he threw his toddler and extravagant lavish birthday party.

      • Adam’s wife has a job too. A well paying (much better than the paycheck he ever received from Saw Works) job. His family is entitled to live their life separately from the job he holds. I’m sorry that you struggled to get payment from Saw Works, but that is not his toddler’s fault.

    • Wrong Horse says:

      Adam was not paying vendors well before H&W. That is his MO. Adam and H&W found each other because they were the last people in town that would work with either one. They are the same kind of POS.
      Adam spent more time taking flying lessons then working to save his company.
      Adam has in his possession Dave Ohmer’s signed resignation paper, and 2 weeks notice letter.

    • I was there at the beginning of Marble City as the first head brewer and from the start Adam was a piss poor business man. He has repeated the same bad decisions over and over again, leaving employees constantly wondering how they are going to pay their bills, or God forbid feed their families. He has reaped what he sowed and deserves the fruit of his harvest. The brewing industry is a better place without the likes of Adam Palmer. Seriously the “man” is a pathetic excuse for a human. Looks like he lost a lot of his dad’s money as well as other people’s.

      • “Adam. Adam made several mistakes during his time at Saw Works, he would be the first to admit that.” I’ve never heard him admit any fault. Anyone else?

  3. And still no public comment or statement from Adam Palmer, Saw Works and/or Henry and Wallace.

  4. Here’s a question for you–the “No Easy Day IPA” they brew was sold under the premise that a portion of sales would go to Project Healing Waters. If they were not paying employees and vendors, what do you wanna bet they were lying to customers about helping the charity? How many people bought that awful “IPA” thinking it was going to a good cause? Would be nice for someone to investigate the possible fraud.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says:

      I contacted Project Healing Waters and was told they were happy with their relationship with Saw Works, meaning they got what they expected.

    • Steve has awful taste. says:

      No Easy Day was a good beer. It’s cool if you don’t like it dude, but speak for yourself.

  5. Will (yeah, that one) says:

    There is good news. Alliance, Crafty, Balter, Fanatic, Hexagon, Abridged, Schultz, Blackhorse, SMBC, Downtown Grill, Last Days, Cold Fusion, and anyone I forgot are open!

  6. Everyone needs to make these comments on the Saw Works social media accounts to prevent people from making the mistake of supporting these crooks. And I’m going to make my dissatisfaction known to Fat Bottom too. Refusing to buy is one thing, but there will still be people who blindly support because they never stumbled across this article. If you really want the brand to die, share this with everyone you know!!!

  7. Elizabeth Perez Tenorio says:

    Now that I am caught up on my normal work day, I find it to be my duty to tell my Adam Palmer nightmare. Due to my parents being friendly with this dirtbag we decided to do his patio at cost meaning we were making ZERO profit. We gave Adam seveal opportunities to pay us before taking to social media at which point this dickhead decided to start a smear campaign against my mother alleging he was the victim. He cut me a check shortly afterwards on a closed account. He also initially did not sign the check. Sneaky sneaky…That’s when I went directly to Henry Wallace. They did eventually write a check out to my company and left it in the lobby of a vacant building.

    • Johnny Miller says:

      I happened to be privy to this situation and had the following Facebook message exchange with Adam regarding the situation. He sent the this to me and about 8 other people after the story hit social media from (I believe your Mom) Susan:

      Adam said, “Hey gang. I just wanted to comment on Susan’s post that I know you are aware of. I have reached out to Susan twice to discuss the situation in person. She has no interest in doing that, which is disappointing. Her post was inaccurate and really painted a terrible picture of me, my company, and my customers. Sometimes an internet signal and an opinion don’t work well together. It is important to me that people be accurate in their comments especially when reputations, business, and the well being of my family are at stake. I would encourage those who see stuff like this to encourage people to address issues head on and not in the public. I appreciate your support. If you have any questions I would be happy to discuss the situation with you as well. Thanks.”

      This was my response to the group: “I’ve done my best to maintain a level of patience, professionalism and respect with this entire situation. But, with this latest situation with my friends Susan and Jace, along with the issues with Will and Ryan (they were brewers at the time), I’ve reached my limit and need to have my voice (not an opinion mixed with an internet signal) be heard. Since you’ve asked this group to face it head on, I’ll take the opportunity to do just that and calmly speak my truth.

      What’s inaccurate about the statement from Susan? I’ve seen that exact situation play out time and time again with employee pay checks (my own countless times) vendors being paid, etc. I find it hard to believe there are major inaccuracies to the post from Susan but if so I’m open to hearing those.

      You’ve unfortunately aligned yourself with a group of people (Henry and Wallace) that have no respect for the beer community in Knoxville, me, my friends or Knoxville itself and they’ve proven that over and over again. That’s not my opinion but my experience along with many other’s experiences. H&W takes advantage of others, you included, and they treat that as SOP. I think you’ve done well to keep things moving forward but if I were you I would look for ways to repair the damage that’s been done to your relationships, pay the debts owed and take full responsibility for all that entails.

      Sincerely – while still maintaining a level of respect, professionalism and calmness.”

      • Elizabeth Perez Tenorio says:

        That’s right! I forgot how he tried to smear my mother as well. We appreciate how you kept her abreast of all that was going on and how Adam was/is nothing more than a snake in the grass.

      • SkeeterBill says:

        And I assume Adam didn’t respond?

        • Johnny Miller says:

          He did and said, “I appreciate the response Johnny. I look forward to discussing this with you further.”

          That never happened.

  8. I’m the GM of a popular West Knoxville sports bar and we stopped carrying them over a year and a half ago. We did so because the beer was different every time we got a keg. Our customers were complaining and we were pouring out many unfinished pints. Our distributor was well aware of the problem.
    Every 4 to 6 months, a new Saw Works sales rep would come around with promises that “all the problems are fixed”. We’d order kegs to find out it was still bad. We knew that they were having problems based on the fact that they couldn’t keep a sales rep. Every one of them quit and now I know why.
    Here’s the thing. Based on what I now know, they could start brewing liquid gold and we are not going to order it. It could be better than my favorite beer, Bell’s Two Hearted, and still I wouldn’t touch it.
    The reputation of Saw Works is forever ruined. Like those before me have said, it’s time for the brand to die and for Henry Wallace to get out of the brewing business.

  9. Alan, good job of telling “the rest of the story” and keeping us all better informed for our future purchases and local support.

  10. I'll Be Your Guy On That says:

    Unfortunately all this plus more is true about the business. During my time there I witnessed all of these problems. My biggest concern at the time was the open sewage just flowing around the entire packaging area (in the basement) and the empty cans being stored down there too. They weren’t event rinsing them with a food safe sanitizer at the time. It’s like a game of Russian roulette when you drank one to see if you’d get dysentery. And fortunately the employees that were forced to clean this up time and time again without proper protective equipment didn’t get sick. The business and Adam took advantage of the community that supported it and the great people that have always worked there. I’m happy that you were able to do this article and let the rest of the community know how this business and parent company operates.

    • You're my guy says:

      Not to mention the roach infestation. Those things were (and probably still are) crawling around all over raw material. So bad they came out during the day. Guess that happens when you stop paying the pest control company.

      But seriously drinking Saw Works is a risk to your health. Employees who could drink it for free avoided the stuff. Fecal matter and roach germs aren’t exactly appealing.

  11. Henry and Wallace are spawns of the devil himself……

  12. For anyone wanting to report them to the Attorney General of Tennessee to begin an investigation, here’s a handy link:
    https://www.tn.gov/commerce/topic/consumer-file-a-consumer-complaint

    Also, refer to this 2nd excellent Knoxville Mercury article that contains useful information:
    http://www.knoxmercury.com/2016/09/23/city-seeks-take-ownership-morristown-college-knoxville-developers-turn-park/

  13. http://www.outreachmagazine.com/ideas/5290-the-church-that-is-a-neighbor.html

    Irony: Patrick King at Henry and Wallace used to be a minister.

    Yikes.

  14. Knox native says:

    The average consumer was “doing their part” and trying to support their local brewery without knowing how corrupt they were.

    As a small business owner, I don’t understand how the state continuously allows Henry and Wallace to keep opening LLCs and taking advantage of local vendors and employees. How are they not in jail?

  15. Jessica Raichl says:

    This has to be one of the oddest stories I’ve read in a very long time. I walked away with more questions than answers from it. A company that ran around town bouncing checks and/or not paying vendors. Where did the money go? How are they still around?

    • Another XEmployee says:

      They are still around because the average customer didn’t know what was happening behind the scenes. They went to Kroger, bought a 6 pack, and told their friends they were “drinking local”. Hopefully this article will expose the heart of the company and encourage consumers to find a different, better, local beer to support. As a former employee, I can tell you we all have questions about where the money went. Our checks frequently bounced and we were given little explanation. We made beer, people bought the beer, but yet, we never could pay for anything. As an employee it was an awful cycle, because if you left then you knew you never would be paid what you were owed. At least if you stuck around there was a chance of getting your money.

    • There’s been theories and speculation that Henry Wallace kept Saw Works running as a way to launder money. Just a rumor and so far, no one has any proof.

  16. It’s so interesting how many chances they’ve received, especially from customers. Being first gave them more potential to become very successful simply because they were first. Too bad they screwed it up royally. It’s hard to know what to believe but why a respectful Nashville Brewery would have anything to do with them… I’ll believe that and the tasting room when I see it. In the meantime, there are plenty of phenomenal, honest, authentic and creative breweries in our beautiful city – that will get my money. Thanks for a great 2 part article Alan!

  17. Burn baby burn!!

  18. So sad. There were/are some good people there but bad management forced many to leave. I liked some of their beers but noticed they were messing with the recipes which changed the taste’

  19. Doug Nelson says:

    I already knew about how bad it was at Saw Works for years from stories told in local bars by people who worked there or have worked there. They lost my support along time ago based on the fact that there was no consistency in their products. It tasted looked, smelled and tasted different from batch to batch. The only time the beer was good was for a brief period when Dave Ohmer was the brewer and he left because of the shady business practices. Now I know why. I don’t fault the hard working guys and gals of the brewing team, they were never given the tools they needed to succeed.
    My take away from this is now there is another brand I won’t drink anymore. Sorry Fat Bottom. In your early days we passed on your brand because of your blatantly sexist marketing. You changed staff and marketing from my understanding, so my wife and I gave you another shot. Your Ida and Ruby are pretty tasty, but I will no longer purchase it. There are too many great beers on the shelves to spend money on a company that chooses to do business with an entity like Henry Wallace. To be fair, maybe because you’re way over in Nashville you didn’t know who you were crawling in bed. You should have done your due diligence and at least spoke to people in the local industry.

    • Bar Manager says:

      I’m glad someone else pointed this out in regards to Fat Bottom. I wasn’t a big fan of their beer to begin with, but recently gave them a shot. Their local sales kid, Bentley, is a good guy and works really hard. However I cannot in good conscience support the brand now that I know they’re in bed with Henry Wallace.

    • Doug I would be interested to talk to you about the sexist beer marketing.

  20. I hope Adam enjoyed his plane while employees sat around not getting paid and other businesses where suffering!

  21. Lousy business practices notwithstanding, perhaps it would have helped if their beer actually had any taste to it. Their beer is by far the worst tasting of all of the local breweries.

  22. You know, there’s something to be said for being “the first.” Have a gander at Good People Brewing in Birmingham. They had some rocky starts, but they always worked hard and did right by their vendors and people. That garnered a lot of support from the community and helped them stay afloat even if once in awhile you got a sour beer. Saw Works squandered the goodwill of the people that wanted them to succeed. It’s a classic case of arrogance and poor business acumen. This brewery should cease to exist because the sour taste is no longer coming from the beer, if you catch my drift.

  23. Great job Alan. Didn’t know you were an investigative journalist too. Now maybe you can turn your sights on one of downtown Knoxville biggest and last remaining eyesores. The Kress building…which seems to be connected to this story.

  24. So the company is worth investing more money in to keep it viable, but it has no business license and no brewing equipment? Good luck selling “local knoxville craft beer” that’s brewed in Nashville. We have lots of great Knoxville breweries to support and don’t need Saw Works. Anyone who continues to support this company is supporting crooks and liars.

  25. It’s time for the brand to die. Patrick King is just another in a long line of tools that make excuses for Henry Wallace’s shadiness. Adam was a problem but shares equal blame with HW.
    The Knoxville brewing industry will be much better off if Henry Wallace walks away and goes back to playing financial shell games with abandoned downtown buildings. We can only hope they will eventually be investigated, caught and prosecuted by the IRS.

  26. Please don’t make excuses for these people. If they can’t manage their business, they should lose it to their competitors, of which there are many.

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