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Archive for Wednesday, May 28, 1997

KAW RIVER BREWERY CLOSES

May 28, 1997

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A local micro-brewery has been closed for about a week.

Hello Sports Page Brewery. Goodbye Kaw River Brewing Co.?

Just as one local micro-brewery opened its doors in Lawrence, another appears to have closed.

A "closed" sign has adorned the doors of the Kaw River Brewery, 729 Mass., for about a week.

The brewery opened a year ago after the owners extensively remodeled a longtime downtown doughnut shop to the building's original 1860s atmosphere.

Since the closed sign appeared on the door last week, there have been several rumors about why the business closed.

However, efforts to contact a principal of the business, Jan O'Rear, in the last week and on Tuesday were unsuccessful.

It was unclear also whether the closing had any connection to the opening about a week ago of the Sports Page Brewery, 3512 Clinton Pkwy.

Bill Summy, floor manager, of the Sports Page, said that brewery currently opens at 5 p.m. each evening. It will start opening for lunch Sunday.

One of the more interested observers of the two businesses has been Chuck Magerl, founder of the Free State Brewing Co., 636 Mass.

Magerl was one of the forefathers of micro-breweries in the Midwest, opening his restaurant-brewery in 1989.

"When we opened, there was nobody doing business like ours between Chicago and Denver," he said.

"The entire Midwest, from the Canadian border to Mexico, was a big open area," he said. "Now we've seen a number of new operations move into the region and into the neighborhood."

Magerl said the secret to his longevity in the business is simple.

"We started out with the intention of making good beer and having a fun place for people to come to have a good time," he said. "That hasn't changed, regardless of how close our neighbors are."

Magerl, who employs about 100 full-time and part-time employees, said competition is strong in the restaurant business.

"Every time any restaurant opens, it has an impact," he said. "But we've not seen a decline in our sales during the time the Sports Page has been open."

In the last three to four years, there has been "a boom of popularity" surrounding micro-breweries, he said.

"We've seen an increasing number of franchise and chain styles emerging in the market as well," he said.

He said there are very few operations that exist as his -- it is run by a brewer rather than someone in the restaurant business.

"I think that has carried us through on our beer quality for years and years," he said.

Magerl didn't comment directly on the Kaw River Brewery.

"It's certainly a daunting proposition to manage a small business, whether you're a shoe store or a brewery," he said. "There are an awful lot of details. A lot of times, when people get into the business based on a trend, they are surprised at the amount of background work that goes into it. It can get overwhelming at times."

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