If you need a mortgage and canning equipment, Doug Cassady knows just the right guy.
The owner of Northstar Mobile Canning in St. Michael still works in the mortgage business, as he has for 25 years, but a couple years ago, Cassady seriously branched out to take on the world of mobile canning.
And what does that world exactly entail? “We put adult carbonated beverages into extruded aluminum vessels for rapid distribution and resale,” Cassady said. “Ok we really just can beer, but that doesn’t sound as swanky!”
While beer accounts for the majority of his business, Northstar does can other drinks including soda, cider, kombucha and coffee. He even cans wine.
“We make it simple, you brew and we put it in cans for you,” he said. “No need for expensive equipment that takes up space and is only used a few times a month.”
So instead of brewers housing the canning equipment, Cassady’s mobile unit is hauled in a trailer right to the site. His delivery truck transports the hundreds or thousands of cans to the site, and then the magic begins.
“The canning line roles right into your facility,” he said. “We have the highest quality standards on site.”
The customers then get to oversee the entire operation.
“The best news is, at the end of the day, we take our equipment and leave (brewers) with high quality product to distribute,” Cassady said. “Nothing for them to maintain. No need to hire an employee to become an expert at packaging.”
Cassady is an Iowa native who graduated from the U of M, met wife Jennifer (his Northstar business partner), and eventually settled their family in Otsego, where their children attended Rogers schools.
A friend helped Cassady with the idea of mobile canning, “Then I flew around the country and met with different canning manufacturers. I learned a lot about the business.”
He started Northstar two years ago in a very small warehouse, and moved to the St. Michael location on Naber Avenue at Hwy. 241 about a year ago. The building long served as the home of the Wegner Company that produced equipment for the performing arts. The former Wegner owner retired and agreed to sell the space to Cassady, who also owns a subsidiary business, Northstar Bev Pack.
Being a mortgage banker by trade, the canning experience requires a lot of hands-on learning by trial and error. He’s on his second mobile canning unit and hopes to buy more in the future.
“I don’t have a packaging background,” he said. “But I do specialize in a mechanical background,” which came in handy for the “very specialized” packaging equipment. He also has two part-time employees, including one, Tom Vaidich, who has a home brewing background and familiarity with the equipment. Cassady’s children also work for him part-time.
His first big customer was the Lupilin Brewery in Big Lake. “Medium-sized breweries are my target audience,” he said. “You have to go to the brewery, inside their walls, to be legal. That’s why my unit has to be mobile.”
He’s packaged almost 2.5 million cans so far, and his machine can process as much as 44 cans per minute. The machine also applies labels, but some cans are pre-printed. Northstar doesn’t make the cans, it just puts the brews into them. The cans are distributed from one of three nationwide companies that, combined, manufacture every can on the market.
His work has taken him all over the metro and state.
“I just come in, put it in cans for them and leave,” he said, “anywhere someone wants to can a product.”
Minnesota, like much of the nation, is in a “beer boom.” Just a decade ago, there were six brewers in the entire state. Today there are 180, and Cassady is banking on the fact that the market has a lot of room for growth. Colorado, he noted, is about the same as Minnesota in population but has nearly four times as many breweries.
“Breweries face major financial and logistical obstacles,” he said. “We eliminate these hurdles and deliver the machinery, labor, materials, and expertise to achieve professional production canning.”
He added, “This was all dumb luck and good timing. Word of mouth has been so good.”
To see more of Cassady’s work, visit www.northstarmobilecanning.com.