Joseph Forzono is immediately personable. Just sitting down with him for a few minutes, it almost seems like you’ve known each other for years.
“My wife and I have been coming down here for years. From the first day we said, this is where we want to retire,” he says.
“I came down here with those plans, actually,” he says with a grin.
“And then, you know what, after about a month, I had to do something. I didn’t retire. So I applied here and here I am,” he says.
Joe is originally from Orange County, New York, and grew up in the Village of Tuxedo.
“Growing up, I was into sports and played a lot of basketball, hockey, soccer, baseball, and everything that you could probably think of. Playing basketball was probably my biggest love, especially going into gymnasiums and playing pickup games.” he shares.
“I used to live across from a gated community, Tuxedo Park. A lot of famous people lived there, like Bill Murray, who I used to see in the local drugstore as a little kid, and Whoopi Goldberg. A friend of mine lived in a mansion, his father worked for Pepsi. Their house had to have 40 rooms in it. He’d have sleepovers and there would be ten of us playing hide and seek in that house,” Joe says. “You could hide for three days and no one was going to find you.”
He laughs, his face breaking out into a grin.
[Ed. note: We’re still trying to imagine a home with 40 rooms in it. What is this, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters?!]
“As a kid, I used to work for a lot of people in the Park. I actually worked for a judge, who used to come in this little Mercedes to pick me up. I’d go up and cut his grass for him. People got to know me so well that my name spread and I ended up getting more and more customers. They’d go on vacation and hire me to take care of various things, like watering the plants, checking on the house, cutting the grass,” he says. “And they’d mail me checks! Who at 13 years old isn’t interested in that?”
“It was a fun place to grow up,” he says. “I have a lot of good memories in Tuxedo.”
[Ed. note: We’ll say! We bet they had some pretty generous Halloween candy offerings up there, too.]
Some of Joe’s childhood friends include a professional drummer who played with Todd Wolfe Band and toured all over the world and former professional boxer.
“My grandparents had a farm in Rockland County. I used to go as a little kid and help them. I would get up early in the morning, go out, and do all their chores, so that when they got up, they didn’t have to,” Joe says.
“I’d love to surprise them and say to them, ‘You know what? Enjoy your breakfast, everything’s done.’ You should have seen the look on their faces when I told them. It was the best feeling in the world,” he says.
[Ed. note: We’re not crying, we swear! Ok, maybe a little bit. It’s hard not to tear up at such a heart-warming story!]
For those who know anything about farm work, getting up early means being up at 3am (or even earlier some days), when it’s still dark out, to take care of livestock. Joe also worked on the farm as much as he could baling hay and using various pieces of equipment. It’s also where he learned how to drive a stick shift (at 10 years old!)
He’s just that kind of guy, so when he began to tell us more of his work history, we were still shocked about the incredible work ethic he has.
Joe worked for the New York State Department of Transportation, where he was a heavy equipment operator. He drove trucks, operated cranes, loaders, bulldozers, backhoes - you name it! During the winter, he plowed main highways for the county.
It wasn’t long before Joe joined pharmaceutical industry, currently known as Novartis, where he ended up staying with the same company for over 30 years.
“Over the years, I saw a lot of people come and go,” he says. “I went from packaging and manufacturing to warehousing and held supervisory roles.”
“I used to do inventory for everything and take care of inventory for multiple departments,” Joe shares. “I did a lot of fork truck driving. A lot. I came up with an idea - why can’t we put a computer and a scanner on my truck so that I can do material moves while I’m on the go? Before, I had to keep running back and forth to my desk.”
“They were like, wow, that’s a great idea. So then the CEO, he wanted to know who the guy was that had the idea. He came to me and shook my hand. He asked me to send him a picture of the fork truck with everything on it so that he could send it to everyone in the company,” Joe says. “A lot of different divisions went with putting that computer on those trucks.”
For the last 6 years, Joe worked with the same company, but this time in Morristown, New Jersey in biopharmaceuticals, where they manufactured treatments for cancer patients.
Novartis is the first to develop CAR-T cell therapy in collaboration with an academic institution. Novartis partnered with the University of Pennsylvania to pioneer the commercial CAR-T cell therapy manufacturing process.
“It’s very tough, it really is,” he says. “I have a huge respect for scientists out there. That work was rewarding. It’s really, really interesting, and thank god for it, because it’s saving lives.”
Joe’s wife Jen teaches the blind and visually impaired. She continues to teach and also mentors new teachers in the field, virtually from Cape May.
That’s not all, though. She also works at Cape May Peanut Butter Co.!
We don’t know how they do it, but we’re definitely glad to have them both down here!
“We’re enjoying our time down here. It’s a great place to live,” Joe says.
Cape May has a pretty powerful magnetic draw, and Joe is no exception.
“We love the atmosphere, the beaches, the old Victorian homes, and especially Washington Street Mall. The people here are very friendly,” he says. “Every time we’d come down here, we would talk to somebody new who lives here.”
“I feel like I’ve been here my whole life,” Joe shares. “Every time I go somewhere, I’m talking to somebody I feel like I know.”
“We bought our house in 2019 and love it. I also love being this close to work! A 5-minute drive beats a 2-hour commute any day!”
“When I was looking for jobs, we went on the website, and my wife said, Joe, look, they have jobs, and they’re right up your alley.” Joe smiles. “That’s how I found out about Cape May Brewery.”
In the nearly ten years that Joe has been down to visit Cape May before moving here, he didn’t actually know the brewery was as close as it is until recently! “I’d had Cape May IPA at different restaurants, but one day we were driving around here and saw the sign and the silo. It’s also cool that it’s at the airport,” he shares.
“It’s awesome here - it really is, and I’m up for the challenges of whatever we’re doing here,” he shares. “ You’re constantly learning about all the different aspects of production and brewery ”
“There’s a lot of good people here, too,” he says. “Everyone Is willing to help with any questions you have. No matter where you go in the facility someone is always willing to help. Especially Sean, he’s unbelievable.”
[Ed. note: Sean actually graciously let us borrow his office to chat with Joe the day that we caught up with Joe after work!]
“I go to him if I have any questions,” Joe says. “He trained me well”.
When they’re not working, Joe and his wife enjoy being by the water, hiking, exploring the area, and working out.
In fact, the two actually met in a gym. “I still like to lift weights. I have a setup in my garage. My wife was generous enough to give me a little corner,” Joe says with a grin.
“We love the summer nights. Sometimes we’ll go to the beach or the bay around 9pm or 10pm, and walk around with flashlights. We like to walk into the water, because when you walk in the water, you find all kinds of strange things,” he says.“There could be hundreds of ghost crabs. They’re real fast, and they’re funny to watch, because they move sideways and keep popping in and out of the holes they make in the sand,” he says.
As far as favorite spots in the area, Joe points to Sappora and Exit Zero Filling Station. He and his wife have a long list of places they want to try.
“My son Josh is 20 and is a junior at Stockton University. He’s into physics, biology, and chemistry and loves all the math and sciences. He’s trying to figure out his path and is considering a dual major. I always told him, whatever you do, make sure you enjoy it,” he says.
“I actually have fun helping him study,” Joe says with a smile. “He likes to show me how to do physics. I tell you - it’s not easy. He likes to ask me questions and he’ll show me all these diagrams and explain them. He should teach. I always tell him that he would make a fantastic teacher.”
“My son is also a 2nd Degree Black Belt in Taekwondo. “I watched him through the years develop that. That was impressive, what he had to go through, like breaking boards with his feet and hands. Not easy to watch as a parent,” Joe says.
“When he got his second degree black belt, he had to break 50 or 75 boards with the same hand,” he says. “Or it might have been 100. By the end of that, his hand was all black and blue. But that’s part of the process. That’s how they do it. It’s not easy to watch, but he did it and I give him all the credit in the world.”
“You know, I read some of the stories of a lot of the people here,” Joe shares. “There are some incredible stories. I told my wife, what am I going to tell them that I did?”
[Ed. note: If you’re reading this, you’re probably as shocked as we were hearing it in person! We’re incredibly lucky to have a phenomenal team, and Joe certainly fits right in.]
Being from New York and close to the city, Joe often went to concerts. He notes Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, and Ronnie James Dio as some of his favorites he’s seen over the years.
“I’m a Knicks fan and a Buffalo Bills and Yankee fan.”
“When I came into the brewery for the first time, I didn’t quite know what I was walking into. I saw the cans going over my head, and I saw all these tanks. I was excited,” he says. “It wasn’t what I thought and never realized how big it was because I’d never been to a brewery.”
“I was so mesmerized while everybody was trying to talk to me,” he says with a laugh.
Of course, all that equipment and beer, one of the biggest shocks is just how easy things can quickly go wrong. It’s something that all of us in the industry experience.
“I’ve had a couple of eruptions with the reservoir tank, where I’d forget to turn the valve off,” he says. “It would start to bubble up. Apparently that happens to a lot of people.”
“The two times that I did that, guess who walked by? Paul,” Joe says with a grin.
[Ed. note: Packaging Supervisor Paul Greer got a kick out of this when Joe told him.]
The next time you see Joe around the brewery, or out and about in Cape May, make sure to say hi! If you have time, we definitely recommend having a longer conversation with him. Take it from us, because Joe is a guy who has even more remarkable stories to tell, and we couldn’t even share them all here!