Leaning Pine

Mark Gillis didn’t go to Paul Smith’s College. He doesn’t have kids who go to Paul Smith’s, either.

But he sure understands how important Paul Smith’s is to the community.

As the owner of the four-year-old Blue Line Brewery, the first brewpub in Saranac Lake, he’s seen plenty of Paul Smith’s alumni and students come through his doors. And when Don “Moose” Jones ‘00 mentioned that he was looking for a way to support the college, Gillis suggested: How about a cold one?

Actually, to be more exact, Gillis suggested brewing a special, Paul Smith’s-themed beer, with a portion of the proceeds from each batch going to the college.

And so was born the Leaning Pine IPA.

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“We get a lot of current students and we do a lot of business with alumni, too,” says Gillis, whose four-year-old business is on the edge of the village, located in a former car wash. “The way I look at it, a good chunk of our customer base on a Tuesday and Wednesday night is Paul Smith’s. During the slow times, they help us, so why not help back?”

Jones says he got involved with the college again last year. He was one of many alumni who approached the school looking for ways to help; in addition to contributing to the Coming Home Challenge, Jones also joined the Alumni Council.

Gillis is contributing $50 to the Alumni Association’s Endowed Alumni Scholarship Fund for every batch of Leaning Pine that he brews. Since putting up the first batch in November, Gillis figures he’s brewed one a month.

leaning-pineTo Gillis, the support he gives the college is also a nod to the students he’s met from Paul Smith’s. “I grew up in a state-college town in Massachusetts, so I kind of get the college town type of feel,” Gillis says. “Not all of those college kids are that nice. You run into Smitties out in the street, they’re just good kids. I’ve become friendly with a lot of them. I’ve become friendly with a lot of alumni.”

Gillis has even hired some current students to help him when he goes on the road to beer tastings and other events.

Ray Agnew, the college’s vice president for college advancement, says he’s especially gratified by the support of Gillis and others in the community. “Our connections to the Adirondack community run deep, and we’re proud of that,” Agnew says. “Our students benefit from the hands-on experiences they get working for many of our local businesses, and we’re looking for even more ways to partner with them. We teach students who go on to work for many of the businesses here. And we’re also an economic engine that helps keep our region’s economy running smoothly.”

Gillis seconded that.

“Saranac Lake is a town of 5,000 people. It’s not that big. Lake Placid has 3,000 people, Tupper lake has 3,000 people,” Gillis says. “But we’ve also got a local community called Paul Smith’s that has 900 students. I can’t speak for other businesses in the area, but it’s a shot in the arm for us.”