2023 Veteran Feature: Terry Sando, Goose River Brewing

Written by: Brady Drake

Years of Service

Four Years

Branch Served

Air Force

Years of Business Operation

Three Years

Born and raised in Valley City, Terry Sandos graduated high school in 1973, a pivotal era marked by the end of the Vietnam War and the transition to a volunteer military. Choosing to further his education, Terry soon joined the Air Force to finance his college degree. He initially specialized in Avionics before cross-training as a B-52 gunner. Stationed at Grand Forks Air Force Base (AFB), he participated in nuclear alerts and flew training missions, even sparring against the famed Happy Hooligans.

In 1985, while his wife was expecting their son, Terry was commissioned as an Intelligence Officer. A highlight of this period came when he was notified of his son’s birth while attending training at Lowry AFB in Denver. This moment underscored Terry’s belief that military service is a family affair, involving the sacrifices and support of loved ones.

Recognizing the potential of space operations, Terry returned to active duty in 1998. His efforts contributed to the establishment of the 219th at Minot AFB, focusing on missile security. Subsequent assignments led him to Colorado Springs, but his career took a significant turn following the 9/11 attacks. Selected to help launch Northern Command, Terry became the first Air Guard Officer stationed in the Cheyenne Mountain Complex. This role, which involved threat assessment and communication with national decision-makers, was one of his most fulfilling.

After nearly 31 years of commendable service, Terry concluded his military journey at Tyndall AFB, following attendance at the Air War College with the 1st Air Force. In 2020, Terry started a brewpub, Goose River Brewing, in Hillsboro, ND.

Q&A with Terry Sando

Q: What branch did you serve in? How long and when did you serve?

A: I served in the Air Force after enlisting in 1979 and made Staff Sergeant before joining the North Dakota Air National Guard in December of 1984. I was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Air Guard in 1985. In 1998, I returned to active duty and retired on November 1st, 2009.

Q: What was deployment like?

A: Because of my Intel and Space assignments, I had high-level security clearances and occasionally deployed to classified sites. These deployments could be stressful at times due to the time-sensitive nature of the missions or evaluations of how I performed my tasks. One unclassified deployment, in particular, stands out for me.

When I was assigned to the Space Battle Lab, I led a small team to Australia to test GPS jamming capabilities at Woomera in the Outback. We used Australian cargo aircraft for the testing. Although we had developed our package for use on our own aircraft, we didn’t take into account the difference in electrical output. When we turned the system on after getting airborne, it started a small fire. A fire in an airplane is certainly not a good thing. We were able to put out the fire, shut down the system, declare an emergency, and land quickly. After a couple of days of tweaking the system, we were able to complete the testing.

Another memorable short deployment occurred during my regional studies at the Air War College. We went to Central Europe, where we met with military members from Poland, Germany, and Austria, and learned about their capabilities and history. This experience has given me a better perspective on the ongoing war in Ukraine. The Russians were despised then and are even more so now. Deployments have allowed me to work with some great people, and it has always been interesting to learn about other cultures and the history of the region.

Q: What was your first job after service? What was
that experience like?

A: After retiring, I returned to Grand Forks and worked for the University of North Dakota, helping to develop the Emergency Management Plan. I later joined the Grand Forks Region EDC to attract businesses in Unmanned Systems and played a significant role in establishing Grand Sky at Grand Forks AFB. This EDC position led to a job with eSmart, a Norwegian company that uses UAVs to inspect electrical lines. They also employed software they developed to identify maintenance issues along those lines. My military training and leadership development were valuable assets in each of these roles. Having both Guard and Active Duty experience, I was proficient in addressing issues related to Title 32 (work for the Governor) and Title 10 (work for the President) in planning and meeting requirements. It was my attention to details like these, and knowing how to navigate them, that benefited me in all these jobs. My deployments, especially to Europe, were instrumental when I had to promote the Grand Forks Region to attract UAS companies to North Dakota.

Q: Did you have any struggles after returning to civilian life?

A: I took a couple of months to decompress after retiring and relished not having to make any big decisions. Being in leadership positions toward the end of my career was at times stressful. My experience at Cheyenne Mountain, where I learned to be slow to anger in an operational environment, helped me keep things in perspective later in my career. I often asked myself, “Will someone die tomorrow if we don’t get this done today?” when working with my team. This mindset often helped alleviate stress among my team members. I maintain the same philosophy today with our team at Goose River Brewing. Keeping it a fun place to work helps reduce stress, which in turn creates a more enjoyable experience for our customers.

Q: Tell me a bit about Goose River Brewing

A: Goose River Brewing is a brewpub striving to become a destination for craft beer lovers. It also serves as a blue-collar gathering place in the Hillsboro region. I served as the mayor for four years, and Hillsboro is strategically located halfway between Fargo and Grand Forks. I had a vision for a brewpub that could draw visitors off I-29 and into downtown Hillsboro. Craft beer drinkers often go out of their way to taste new beers. We haven’t yet been able to get our brewing system up and running, but we’re getting close. The pandemic slowed down our construction, and we’ve experienced troubles with the supply chain in acquiring certain pieces of equipment. We’ve been open for a little over a year in the pub and have 24 beers on tap. Our aim is to feature mostly regional craft beers on tap until we can brew 12 of our own. Once brewing begins, we’ll hold a keg-tapping event on the first Friday of every month. The first 10 beer tasters will receive a free pint if they provide us with feedback on the beer. Fridays are also steak nights at Goose River Brewing, making them a great time to enjoy a delicious steak. We have nine TVs and will be promoting Football Frenzy on Sunday afternoons. We’ll also stream local high school sports when available. Our Thursday night bingo has become quite popular. Overcoming operational challenges, such as staffing issues and rising costs due to inflation, has been tough, but we’re receiving great support from the community.

2023 Veteran Feature Terry Sando

Q: Did you plan to start Goose River Brewing before enlisting in service?

A: No, I didn’t really plan on starting a business when I joined the military. I thought I would come back and work on the family farm eventually. Times changed, and the idea for the brewpub came when I was mayor and saw a definite need for a family-friendly brewpub in Hillsboro. My military retirement has allowed me to invest in and grow the business while still having the finances to enjoy life.

Q: What does a normal day on the job look like for you?

A: I typically open the pub by getting the till and charitable gaming operations up and running. I coordinate the team’s activities for the day. Usually, I let the team take over while I handle paperwork and pay bills in the office. When needed, I cover open shifts as a bartender or server. On busy nights, I clear tables and wash dishes—less glamorous jobs, but important ones to keep the servers on the floor going. Currently, to improve my skills as a beer brewer, I am enrolled in the online Master of Science in Brewing Operations program at Auburn University. Studying and completing assignments take up part of my day. This educational pursuit is another benefit from my military service, as I’m using the Post 9/11 GI Bill to cover tuition. Once brewing starts, most of my day will be spent making and canning or kegging the beer, in addition to handling marketing and paperwork

Q: What were your friends and family’s reactions when you told them you were pursuing service, and what was their reaction when you told them about your business?

A: My family was very supportive when I joined the military. As for starting the business, my wife thought I was too old to take on such a venture!

Q: What do you remember about your first days when launching your business?

A: The old military adage “those who dare, win” guided me initially. The pandemic created a lot of challenges. We began building before it hit, but it significantly impacted the costs of the building and equipment. It also extended the timeline for opening and getting the brewing operations started. I’ve been fortunate to have a solid team that has helped Goose River Brewing get up and running.

Q: Has your service experience changed your business mindset?

A: Strategic thinking and planning that I experienced in the military have definitely played a vital role. They have helped with the business planning and the launch of the concept. Having a service-minded approach is a critical component in taking care of our customers. Leadership by example is also a quality that is important to our team dynamic. Seeing me clean dishes and tables shows that I’m right there with them, and I don’t ask others to do what I won’t do myself. Being disciplined for so many years has helped me stay focused. Resilience and perseverance have definitely helped me overcome the obstacles of getting Goose River Brewing up and running!

Q: What do you see as North Dakota’s greatest benefits to starting a business here?

A: The biggest benefit for me has been working with Traill County EDC to secure Flex Pace Financing for the building and equipment. Having the Bank of North Dakota buy down the interest rate upfront made it possible to get started. It’s always competitive in a small town to build something new because there aren’t comparable businesses to determine the financing needed to get started. Getting that support was vital for launching Goose River Brewing.

Q: Have you found any specific resources or support networks that have been instrumental in your entrepreneurial journey as a Veteran?

A: The North Dakota Small Business Development Centers and VBOC provide a lot of advice and support for getting started. They are great about checking on progress and helping with revenue projections and loan repayment paperwork. These resources have supported my business planning and projections.

Q: What was the hardest challenge for you when opening your business?

A: The hardest challenge was the increased costs of the building and equipment. I had to make a much larger personal investment as the project got going. In hindsight, I should have bought a new brewing system instead of buying a used one that needed major upgrades. With a new system, we could have been brewing last year. The pandemic was a major factor in both the cost increases and the delays.

Q: What does being a Veteran symbolize to you?

A: If readers have a chance to visit Goose River Brewing, they will see many of my patches hanging on the west wall. These patches are from units that I was either in or worked with during my career. Every day I look up at them and remember mostly the good times, but also occasionally those who didn’t get to retire and gave their all. Being a veteran means that not only have you made sacrifices, but your family has as well, all to keep this country great.

Q: Who are your biggest mentors that you can attribute some of your successes to?

A: At my age, I have too many mentors to thank. Suffice it to say that my family has been the most influential and supportive, not only in starting Goose River Brewing but also in everything else I’ve undertaken.

Q: What advice do you have for business owners in the area who are just beginning their endeavors?

A: Do a great job with your business planning; the more detailed it is, the better prepared you will be. Have a contingency fund of at least 35 percent because projected costs will almost never be accurate. This is especially true in today’s environment where inflation impacts profit margins. Entrepreneurs today should leverage the North Dakota business development ecosystem as much as possible when starting a business. Technological change is accelerating, so it’s essential to adopt a lifelong learning mindset to keep up with these changes. Finally, remember that your family will be the ones there for you in the long run, so develop a good work-life balance.

Q: What advice do you have for others considering enlisting in service?

A: When asked about military service, I always recommend considering the National Guard or the Reserves. There are a couple of points I’d like to emphasize: First, these choices offer flexibility—you can select from any one of the services and can choose to go on active duty if you find it fulfilling. Second, the Guard and Reserves have evolved to be more operational than merely serving as a Strategic Reserve, like in the past. As advertising for the Guard suggests, it’s not only a great way to support your community during a crisis, but it can also help pay for school and offer short tours to support active forces. Additionally, full-time jobs are available within the Guard and Reserves if you choose to apply for them.

If you do go on active duty, prepare yourself to become a small part of a service brotherhood and sisterhood where it’s “service before self” in all that you do.

[email protected]
Facebook | /GooseRiverBrewing
24 West Caledonia Ave Hillsboro, ND 58045

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Brady is the Editorial Director at Spotlight Media in Fargo, ND.