top of page

A Final Farewell

Four years, eight months, and twenty days ago I walked into the Brewer’s Union in Oklahoma City to collect a couple cases of beer and walked out with a dream. Twenty-one months later, the dream came true, and we opened the first all women owned and operated craft brewery in the state of Oklahoma. Nearly three years later, we have served our final beverages at Equity Brewing Company. Although not everything has been easy and dreamlike, I can honestly say that building and operating Equity has been a glorious and dreamy experience. But, of course, dream projects sometimes come to an end.


From the beginning, this project has been about so many things. It has been about disruption of a male dominated industry and reclamation of beer-making for women. It has been about experimentation with social entrepreneurship and the ways in which we can use equitable business models to support the local community. It has been about inclusion and the creation of a diverse and safe space. It has been about community building, collaboration, and partnership. It has been about art – liquid art, food art, visual art, music art, dance art, and so many other forms of creative art making and sharing. Most importantly, it has been about our guests – those who joined us on this journey, shared each other’s company, and enjoyed a few good beers along the way.


As we have prepared to close our doors, I have had the chance to reflect, briefly, on this experience. There will undoubtedly be an additional period of processing – especially after I have slept a bit – but I wanted to share a few initial insights, for the sake of transparency.


To be sure, today’s difficult economic context and climate have affected us like so many others in this industry. The persistent rising cost of everything is not a small matter for small businesses like ours. But it isn’t just the economics that led us to close our doors. There are other reasons – just as important – that are rooted in our values, our concept of business and art, and, quite honestly, my personal journey of learning, growing, and, especially, healing.


First, our values. We have been very clear since before we opened our doors that our values are our guiding star. I must hand it to Hannah here, as she has been our brand voice. She has made sure that our values of equity and inclusion are front and center in all that we do and say. The Equity Trust has also been significant in this regard. When we first decided to open Equity Brewing Company, we wanted to include a range of voices, experiences, and identities. Hannah and I are only two women of a particular background, and we knew we couldn’t speak for others. The Trust was formed and developed under the incredible leadership of Skye and then sustained with the help of Megs. More than a dozen members with various perspectives have advised us, provided feedback, and offered guidance on a range of issues and challenges since our first meeting in 2020. We simply couldn’t have gotten as far as we have without their support and dedication.


But it is with our values in mind that we decided to close. Operating as a social impact business – a decidedly anti-capitalist company – in a capitalist world, we have learned, is beyond challenging. We have found ourselves having to write too many big checks to all the wrong people – banks, wealthy property owners, big corporations, credit card companies, insurance companies, government agencies, and too many others that simply take too much. We cannot justify it any longer. 


We also learned that it has become increasingly difficult to support the vibrant “third” place, or community space, that we set out to create without violating our own principles, given the public third place depended on an efficient workplace. Minimizing hierarchies in the workplace was important for us, but pre-existing expectations and anxieties about the roles of “owners” and “laborers” are quite difficult to overcome. After a lot of reflection and learning, we realized we could not maintain one set of values for the public – a non-hierarchical place of enjoyment – and yet have to enforce and endure a more hierarchical order among the staff in order to keep the doors open, the lights on, and people employed. This also took a toll on our personal boundaries, as one way to minimize pre-existing structures in the workplace is just to allow or tolerate toxicity and other negative workplace behaviors. We struggled in this regard, and, at the end of the day, it just felt too inconsistent to prioritize comfort in one arena of the business, and experience and perpetuate discomfort in another.


We have also endured challenges from various members of the Norman community. We have been the target of lies, rumors, and attacks that were beyond inappropriate, and we felt like we couldn’t fully respond without further damaging our business and losing more customers. That feeling of being silent while others are free to disparage us has been painful, and it violated everything we stand for. 


Ultimately, the challenges of running a business, compounded by the significant challenges of living up to our values as a socially conscious enterprise in a capitalist system, became exceedingly difficult and unhealthy. When you couple that with the significant economic challenges that most small businesses face, we decided that closing was the only way to save ourselves.


Second, this project has been just as much about art and beauty as it has been about business and revenue generation. A fellow brewer mentioned to me early in our journey that we aren’t in the beer-making business, we are in the beer-selling business. But I learned that the selling of the beer is not really my jam. I love making it. I love sharing it. I love the creation and enjoyment of everything we have offered. We have made and supported art, and of this I am really proud.


When we announced our closing, my dear friend Haley, who created the Equity star and all of our brand imagery, told me she felt like, three years ago, we had opened an immersive art installation – an art exhibit that incorporated and included all of those who entered the space. And like all art exhibits, she said, this particular installation must also come to a close. I love that perspective. It does seem like we built something significant together, something that really wasn’t about business.


I have been reading a book titled The Creative Act: A Way of Being, and I felt deep satisfaction when I read that “a work of art is not an end point in itself. It’s a station on a journey. A chapter in our lives.” These words encapsulate how it really feels to be bringing this project to a close. Perhaps it was only meant to be an arts and humanities project – an immersive and inclusive one – and now it is time for this project to end, so we can all start anew with new and different eyes, recycling the Equity energy into the next point on this journey of life.


Finally, this project has been deeply personal for me in many ways. I didn’t know when I started Equity Brewing Company that the entire enterprise was the result of a lot of grieving and yearning. I had lost a lot coming into the project – a career, loved ones, a sense of self and purpose. I had lost some safety. I had lost my community. I now understand that this business endeavor was an effort to create the safe, comfortable workspace and inclusive community that I desperately needed and wanted – for myself and for others. 


I also didn’t understand fully when I began this project that I needed to get out of my head and work with my body. I needed to feel the hard work – the physical labor required to manufacture a product again and again. I now know that I needed that to heal – and I have. 


But I am not a spring chicken, and I have had to accept that the physical, mental, and emotional labor required to run a brewery was, for me, doing more harm than good. It is now time for me to prioritize, perhaps for the first time ever, my own well-being. And this project taught me that I deserve that. I recently had a conversation with a regular customer at Equity, and he told me he was happy we were closing. He said it was time for my self-flagellation to come to an end. That was eye-opening – a chilly plunge into a cold pool of truth. I had no idea anyone would or could see that part of this work. But he held up that mirror, and it liberated me. That is what community can do for you.


And this community has been created and sustained because of the contributions of so many. I am beyond grateful for everyone that has contributed to this project in ways big and small. From early partnerships with Jacque and Lilly, and then Dani, and later Yvonne, to Larry and his design of the brewery and then kitchen, to Ken and his guidance with construction, to Leonard for the amazing woodwork and finishing touches, to Natalie and then Brian and later Robert, Kelly, Avery and then Bob who contributed significantly to brewing operations, to all of the staff members that served beverages and produced outstanding food – Adriana, Cameron, Bethey, Soreeta, Cindy, Barbie, Kylie, Rowan, Kelly, Avery, Sam, Erika, Rose, Tevin, Emma, Daphne, Norma, Caleb, Robert, Candace, Cory, Cara, Haley and especially, Shelby and Michael. Not all working relationships proceed as one may hope. In fact, working relationships can be exceptionally difficult. But regardless of how some of these relationships ended, we are grateful for the contributions everyone made and the lessons we learned along the way.


Equity Brewing has been first and foremost about partnerships, and we are very proud of and grateful for those who have worked with us over the years. I would like to thank all of those that worked on collaboration beers with us: Jabee and With Love OKC, Conscious Lee, The Foundation for Liberating Minds, Period OKC, OKC Latina, Red Dirt Collective, CareAVans, The Firehouse Art Center, LeMonde International School, The Mary Abbott House, the ACLU of Oklahoma, Plant People, the Oklahoma Women’s Journal, Twister City Roller Derby, Dance Skate 405, OU’s I-Hub, and others.


Many thanks to all of the artists that have contributed art to this space – Virginia for her art show curation and the amazing mural on the building outside, Aditi, Chandler, Sunny, and Jayna for their incredible murals inside our space, Ginna for the amazing Snug, Alyssa for her feminist multimedia art scattered throughout the taproom, and countless others that have shown their work here.


Many thanks to all the musicians that have shared their talents at Equity – Jo James, Cora Gutel, Maura McAndrew, Maggie Gibson, Caleb McGee, Tim Grimm, Nate Borofsky (who also made a great beer with us), and many others.


Other performers we wish to thank include the Sultry Femmes, Opera on Tap, Yakisoba Michaels and the Glam Slam crew, Olivia Lycan, and all the comedians that have made us laugh. And big thanks to the amazing DJ Zora for all the incredible tunes she has spun for us over the years.


We also want to thank those who shared this space with us as they were working on their own businesses: Brooke from Forage & Gather, Liz from Better Bites, Ashley and Calie from Golden Perspective, and J’Shawna from the Hope Foundation.


Many thanks to Prelude Coffee for roasting our coffee beans, Lauren for making candles with our beer, Carly for making soap with our beer, Rescue Dog Hot Sauce for making hot sauce with our beer, Must Heart Dogs for making dog treats with our grain, Claudia for making our gluten free products, and Daphne, Caleb, and Sara for making pastries for the kitchen. Many thanks to the Yoga instructors that have kept us Zen, beginning with Lindsay and then the amazing Kelly. Thank you to Alex who taught people to stitch, knit, and crochet, the Norman Public Library for the Ales and Tales book club, the incredible members of the Storytelling Collective, and so many others that have organized events, popups, and activities.


We thank all the restaurants and establishments that have carried Equity beer over the years: Blu, The Library, Pinot’s Palette, The Standard, Social Capital, Rodeo Cinema, Palo Santo, The Pump, Gabriella’s, Beer City, Pizzeria Gusto, Freeman’s, and others.


Many thanks to Lazy Circles Brewing for their early support, and especially to Stephen Basey for helping me learn to brew on a commercial system. Thanks to Legally Brewed for the time they spent at Equity. Thanks to Liquid Intrusion, HopSized Brewing, Iron Monk, and Funky Picnic Brewing for collaborating with us. Thanks to Canadian River Brewing and (405) Brewing for their assistance with canning products.


I am especially grateful to Lady Justice Brewing in Colorado, particularly Betsy Lay, for helping me learn how to create beer recipes and adjust water chemistry.


Thank you to the writers that have contributed to our blog – Jennine, Hollie, and Kerri, and to Kerri for always finding the right words for our website.


Big thanks to Haley for her amazing work on our Equity brand - she has two Equity tattoos to her name now! And many more thanks to Haley for her help in the taproom over the past few weeks.


A huge thank you to Jennifer, our bookkeeper. She has been instrumental in keeping us afloat and financially organized. We could not have managed without her!


Thank you to Jason at Resolution Legal for all of his legal advice and assistance over the years.


So many thanks to all the members of The Equity Trust, and especially to Skye and Megs for their leadership and constant support and guidance.


I have to thank everyone who has walked through these doors, but there have been a few folks that have become true friends, and I am so grateful for their love and support. Many thanks to the Peppler family, the Stevens family, the Donaldson/Foster family, the Even family, Ginna, Tom, Joyce, Lloyd, Celeste, Tera, Tierney, and the entire Tuesday night turned Thursday night gang, K squared (Kristina and Kristy), and Rita, Susan, Elizabeth, and Valerie, the Thursday night ladies, among other regular guests.


The biggest heartfelt thanks go to Bob and Cara. I could have never made it through the last few months without them. They are my chosen family, and I am so grateful for all they have done for me and for Equity Brewing.


A very special thank you goes to Shelby, the best beertender, and Michael, the best chef, we could have ever hoped for. We are so grateful that they stuck it out with us until the end. But more importantly, we are grateful for all they have done for Equity since the beginning of their time with us. We could not have done this without them.


Finally, I would like to thank Hannah. I could not have imagined that my daughter and I would work so closely together and not kill each other. But I truly have not had a better partner in all things since we started this project. She is the love and light of my life, and I am beyond grateful for the person she is and for all she does.


As we bring this “exhibit” to a close, I can honestly see, with my own eyes, that we, together, have accomplished so much. I am proud of and thankful for what has been done here, what we have achieved, and everyone who contributed in any way. I have learned so much. I made a lot of mistakes along this path, but I have learned from all of them. And that gift of learning is invaluable. 


Ultimately, I hope that in some small way we are leaving the business community, the brewing industry, and the community of Norman a bit more open, inclusive, and humane than when we started. We really can’t ask for more than that.


Thank you all! Cheers!! And Equity Forever!!


Squiggle 2.png
bottom of page