The Lockport Legend 012518
8 | January 25, 2018 | The Lockport Legend news lockportlegend.com Lockport resident helps expand local craft beer scene Amanda Stoll, Assistant Editor The ever-expanding craft beer scene has another dot on the local map, but coowner and Lockport resident Denver Worker said the supportive and collaborative nature of craft brewing supports the multitude of bottle shops and craft breweries along the “I-80 beer corridor,” as he calls it. “Ultimately, all of us together is kind of a great place for people to come looking for beer,” Worker said. “A lot of the beer drinkers come seeking it out. They want to go to multiple places, and we felt like we could be a part of that.” He and Dan Rusnak, who have been friends since growing up in Tinley Park together, have talked for years about opening a business together. The ideas were varied, but none ever came to fruition — until they dreamt up Crafted. The two have both been fans of craft beer for years, but Worker said the decision to start a business around it took a lot of convincing for themselves and their wives. Only after attending multiple craft beer festivals throughout the years and visiting numerous shops in the area with similar business models they were finally able to commit. The shop, which sells packaged beers and as many as 12 beers on tap, focuses on Midwestern beers, but occasionally features beers from around the country as well. Worker and Rusnak, who live in Lockport and Orland park, respectively, both still hold their full-time jobs. Worker said it has been a huge commitment since the build out, which they did almost entirely themselves, and shop opening nearly two months ago. “Basically everything else was hand-built and designed by us, and [we] put a lot of effort into it,” Worker said. “... We wanted to be a little bit different than the typical bottle shops that we researched.” One special touch that might not be evident to newcomers is the lighting above the bar. The beam used to support the lights was once part of Rusnak’s grandfather’s workbench when he worked for Coleman in the 1940s. Ultimately, they chose the location at 19200 South La Grange Road because of its proximity to I-80 and the Holiday Inn that is currently under construction across the street from the shop. Worker, who works fulltime for Southwest Airlines, said he and his wife travel fairly often and always make an effort to seek out local breweries and frequently bring beer home with them from their trips. “I’ve always enjoyed seeking out different styles of beer and trying different things,” said Worker, who said he has tried just about, if not every, beer they sell in the store. Beside the handmade shelving, fixtures and furniture in the shop, Crafted is a bit different from other bottle shops by the way they sell and sort their packaged beers. Worker and Rusnak also allow any package of multiple beers, such as a six pack, to be broken up and sold separately without an upcharge. Many shops offer a build-your-own six pack, but end up charging more per bottle than if they were sold in a six pack of like beers. Rather than sorting the beers by where they were made, like most shops do, they chose to sort their stock by type of beer. Worker said Owners Denver Worker, of Lockport, and Dan Rusnak pose for a photo behind the bar at Crafted Bottle Shop and Tap Room at 19200 South La Grange Road, Unit E. in Mokena. Amanda Stoll/22nd Century Media it makes it easier for people to browse the shelves when they have certain styles or types of beer they enjoy over others. There are a few exceptions to that rule, such as the four, rotating, featured breweries that occupy their own shelf space. Another shelf is home to the leftover beers that dwindle down as people purchase single beers. The section with stragglers is a popular place for people to begin shopping, which Worker said surprised him. Allowing people to break up packages has some disadvantages as a business owner and imparts some risk for the owners, but Worker said it is worth the risk for them to give people the option to try new things without worry that they will buy a six pack and find out they don’t like their choice. “We want to create a better beer drinker,” Worker said. “We want to have the opportunity for people to try as many styles as they can.” “...One of the things that breweries thrive off of is their flights and being able to try different beers. ...This model is kind of that. We want to give you the opportunity to bring home a whole flight of beers.” The shop, which sells packaged beers and as many as 12 beers on tap, focuses on Midwestern beers, but occasionally features beers from around the country as well. Beers on tap at the ribbon cutting last week included brews from Tribes Beer Company in Mokena and Hailstorm Brewing in Tinley Park. “We want you to enjoy the beer here, we want to share stories with you, we want to talk to you, so we want you to hang out here for a little bit instead of taking that beer home,” Worker said. “So, whatever the price it is to take home is the price that you would pay to drink it here.” “...I don’t like being upcharged for things and I don’t want to upcharge anybody else for it.” With seating at the bar, at various group-sized tables and at the two-seat tables there is room for more than 30 people to sit, and standing room for more. “We wanted to create a relaxing, comfortable atmosphere for people to enjoy their beers,” Worker said. The social focus of their shop extends to that of other area businesses in that Worker and Rusnak are fostering relationships with breweries and other bottle shops and seeking out collaborative projects. Upcoming events at the shop include beer yoga, HIIT workouts using empty kegs as weights, a pallet painting night and a couple running clubs that will begin and end their routes at Crafted. Crafted does not serve food, but allows and encourages customers to bring their own to the shop. The shop is dog friendly to wellbehaved, leashed pooches and Worker said a reward program, called the Ambassador Program, is in the works to reward customers for checking in at Crafted as well as area breweries.
lockportlegend.com news the Lockport Legend | January 25, 2018 | 9 Former Lockport resident, longtime Marley Candles owner passes on T.J. Kremer III Contributing Editor It seems some people begin life with a natural tendency to shuffle around this Earth, constantly in search of the next adventure or challenge to occupy their time here. And so it was with John Fixari, the longtime owner of Marley Candles, before he died Dec. 25. The oft-traveled Fixari — who, at various times, has called New Lenox, Lockport, Minooka and Stark, Florida, home — claimed careers in construction, the bar industry, horesery, the hotel industry and trailer park owner, not to mention a tour in WWII as a Navy pilot and flight instructor, and, later, a private flight instructor. “He had never been not self-employed; he had a hard time working for other people,” said Fixari’s daughter, Nancy Fixari, who now runs Marley Candles. The late Fixari purchased Marley Candles in 1979, just after his stint as a hotel owner in Florida. At first, the idea was it would make a nice way to enjoy retirement, Nancy said. But that quickly changed as John poured his typical go-all-the-way attitude into the business by building additions to the store, “re-inventing the wheel” by coming up with faster, more efficient ways to produce candles, and adding as many as 16 employees in the early ’90s. “In the beginning, it was manageable, it was fun,” Nancy said. “... Then things started to grow and grow, and we had to have a lot more employees … And my parents were very adverse to hiring more people; let’s just work harder.” And work harder he did, shattering any idea of an easy retirement with his quest to produce more and more candles. “My dad would tell me and my sister, ‘You kids ruined the business,’” Nancy jokingly said, laughing as she fondly recalled memories of her father. But that strong work ethic was seemingly just what John’s nature was: Even in post-retirement, John felt the need to have a “hobby,” and so in March when he moved into Clarendale of Mokena he began painting WWII planes. Nancy said she has thought about selling Marley Candles in order to give the business a new generation of life to keep it going, but, so far, people seem to shy away once they discover how much work is actually involved. And so the business will stay with Nancy for the foreseeable future. And John now finally gets that retirement he so richly earned. John Fixari, a former Lockport resident and longtime owner of Marley Candles, died Dec. 25. Photo submitted