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At Blackback Pub, a Sense of Community Is On Tap

by Vermont Small Business Development Center VermontBiz In the heart of historic Waterbury, Ehren Hill and Cory Swafford took the leap in 2023 to purchase Blackback Pub, a welcoming, well-known gathering place that nurtures a sense of community. This is the place where locals and visitors alike forge friendships, share stories and celebrate life’s moments.

From the outset, the new partners’ goal has been to build upon the legacy and core values set by the previous owners and to deliver what their guests appreciate most: genuine connections; a selection of constantly changing regional beers on tap; freshly prepared and locally sourced American fare; a cocktail and wine bar; quality service; and a cozy ambiance.

Photo: General Manager Ehren Hill, left, and chef Cory Swafford purchased the Blackback Pub in 2023.  Courtesy photo.

Photo: General Manager Ehren Hill, left, and chef Cory Swafford purchased the Blackback Pub in 2023.  Courtesy photo.

As longtime Waterbury residents, General Manager Hill and chef Swafford have extensive restaurant experience in the region and had been working at Blackback for several years before purchasing the business.

Having previously worked at another business advised by the Vermont Small Business Development Center, Hill decided early on in the process that he would do the same for this transaction.

He reached out to Business Adviser  Charley Ininger, who began advising Hill and Swafford on their partnership agreement and offering guidance on the steps toward purchasing an existing business, including meeting with the sellers’ accountant on valuation.

“I continue to enjoy working with Ehren and Cory,“ Ininger said. “They stay focused and are timely with requests for information. During the purchase, they listened carefully before making decisions, and as a result they finalized a deal that fit with their expectations.“

“The Small Business Development Center helped me become a more informed, confident prospective buyer and owner, and Charley has been communicative and supportive through the whole process,“ Hill said. “Our conversations were invaluable, and I will recommend Charley and VtSBDC to anyone I can.“

Nearly a year in, Hill and Swafford have created a collaborative work environment with 28 experienced employees who take pride in offering “great food and the best beer menu in the area.“

And while Blackback has always been known for what’s on tap, Swafford’s refreshed menu assures that customers will also stay for the food.

In addition to their signature nachos loaded with two cheeses, bacon, scallions and maple-chipotle sauce, Swafford has added a variety of large- and small-plated options, from brisket to salads to vegan selections.

“Whatever the future holds, the Blackback is true to its core values, and we are motivated by a sense of belonging among our customers and staff,“ Hill said. “That’s why we feel so strongly that this is the right place. We continue to find new ways to be involved in our community, embracing Waterbury as a place that we love.“


The Blackback Pub, at 1 Stowe St., is open Tuesday through Saturday. Kitchen hours are noon to 9 p.m., and last call at the bar is midnight. Learn more at

For more information about the VtSBDC, visit

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