LYONS - Sunlight streamed through the large windows of Brew 56, as snow swirled on the sidewalk outside.
On a bitterly cold January afternoon, warmth filled the air stepping into the new coffee and tap house on Lyons’ Main Street. A menu of fair trade coffees, frappes, cappuccinos, teas, smoothies, freshly baked coffee cake, scones, with homemade pizza written on the chalkboard menu along with craft beers and wines.
Mark and Stacy Clark and their adult children and spouses have played a role in the town’s new business, which opened in December.For decades the building was Earl’s Upholstery; however, Pat Fulton, owner of the Edward Jones office next door, bought the building and stripped it to its wood floor and original tin ceiling. He installed new heating and air-conditioning, turning it into the clean space it is today. Then he began looking for a tenant.
Meanwhile, Stacy Clark, director of the Rice County Economic Development, had formed a group with Fulton to look at sprucing up all the Main Streets around Rice County.
“I am passionate about small downtowns, and we had gathered people and discussed what we would like to see in our downtown square.
Downtowns are visual barometers of the health of a community, according to Stacy Clark.
“We wanted all the towns to have resources to help renovate the historic buildings downtown,” she said. For now, they have found some grants for facade renovations, which is a start.
It was following the renovation of the building that a chamber coffee began meeting in the empty building. Mark Clark attended with his wife and caught the vision of what the inside could become.
Meanwhile, Clark’s son-in-law Luke Cureton had visited a tap room in Arkansas which specialized in local beers and wine.
“He came back and said we should do this and it morphed into a tap and coffee house,” said Mark Clark, a retired music teacher who is currently an assistant professor of music at Sterling College.
But they want to give the community what it wants, which means along with the craft beer on tap, they will also serve bottled beer, including Bud Light. They tried to stay local but include craft beers from Colorado and Missouri.
Daughter Megan is the head barista as well as the baker. She was mixing up butter and flour, chocolate to be baked into scones the next morning.
A welcoming space
“My dad had a hardware store in Haysville, and I grew up with memories of him interacting with people,” Mark Clark said.
There was a corner in the hardware store where people came and talked about culture and faith.
“They would share opposing views,” Clark said. “I admire the way he could do that.People had a right to their opinion, no matter where they were coming from they felt welcome and would be in community with each other.
“When you look at how volatile people are in their views today,” Clark said, it would be hard to have that kind of community, but that’s his dream for Brew 56, named for the highway which runs from Kansas City through the state.
In honor of the highway, their pizzas are names of towns along U.S. 56. They created the Baldwin, a chicken pesto mozzarella pizza after Baldwin City. Then there is the Lyons with mozzarella and red sauce and the Dodge which has Italian sausage.
All ages come through the door, from families to students. Middle school students will stop for a frappe after school.
“It’s an interesting mix of people,” said Clark.
He’s hoping the regular coffee drinkers who meet at the Dairy Queen and Wendy’s will add Brew 56 to their daily coffee klatch routine.
The stylish setting includes refurbished electrical spools for some of the tables.
“It’s rustic and industrial,” Clark said describing the look.
Currently, there is a piano in the corner and plans are to build a small stage in the corner and have entertainment. They will have game night with Trivia and Clark would even like to see a melodrama. They even have a yoga and wine class on Monday nights that has attracted about 30 people and their mats.
Stopping in for his afternoon chai latte was Ryan Carlson. He had walked across the town square from the Lyons News where he works.
"This is one of the best chai latte’s I ever had,” said Carlson. Before Brew 56 opened, he would drive the 10 miles to Sterling or head to Hutchinson for a latte.
“Just to have it right here is nice,” said Carlson.
While the trend has moved to online shopping, Stacy Clark said people are also interested in “unique, one-of-a-kind experiences.”
That’s what they hope Brew 57 will offer its customers, she said. It might take time to build. But that’s their goal. They want it to become a place for people to come as a social gathering for fellowship and community.
Brew 56 can be an anchor for people, when they come into that destination, fill up on gas, and check on other businesses.