DUNCAN - Nestled in the trees that line the northern side of McCurdy Road in Duncan’s industrial park is a five-and-a-half-acre dream that has been years in the making.
While inclement weather earlier this spring may have delayed the construction of Duncan’s latest attraction, Chris and Laura Kochendorfer and Lenny and Kathryn Cripps have officially opened the first family-friendly craft beer brewery and taproom in southwest Oklahoma.
“This is a tremendous partnership,” said Lyle Roggow, president of the Duncan Area Economic Development Foundation. “This is a place where we will see citizens young and old kindle opportunities and be able to do business and have retreats. It’s a critical piece to our community.” Brewmaster of Kochendorfer Brewing Company Lenny Cripps said, “What started out as a business venture has turned into a great friendship.”
Laura Kochendorfer said that while working in Texas with Chris’ auto repair service, the couple visited several family-friendly venues. After planning “to buy some land and build a production-style facility,” she credits Lyle Roggow for the talking them into building the brewing company in the industrial park.
Since living in Germany in the late ‘80s, Lenny has been fine-tuning his signature brewing recipes which have earned him quite a following. “My wife was an Army dentist, and back in ’85,” said Lenny. “During her first tour of Germany, I drank my first German beer and thought, ‘where has this been all my life?’ Every small town had its own brewery. And I worked in some brewpubs that developed into a paying job in microbreweries.”
When Chris first became seriously interested in brewing his own beer, relatives encouraged him to meet Lenny. “Lenny has been brewing long enough that he knows what people like, and what makes a good beer,” Chris said. “While living in Oklahoma City, we started watching the laws and started writing our business plan and bringing everything together,” said Chris. “It was going to be more expensive and we’d be just another brewery along with all the other ones.”
“We talked to Lenny and Kathryn and asked if they would be interested in becoming partners. They were ecstatic about it,” said Laura. After multiple trips back to the drawing board, the final result is an expandable brewing operation in back, and a warm, family-friendly atmosphere for the taproom. Several popular board games can be played on the heavy wooden picnic tables, two sectional sofas and two pinball machines are also housed there.
A heated patio overlooks the children’s play area, giving guests a chance to watch their children play while they interact with one another over their favorite ales, stouts and ciders, all handcrafted by Lenny and Chris. “Everything went into all the details,” said Laura. “Chris and Lenny stained all the floors; our families came in and laid the tile around the bar and the restrooms themselves; Lyle from DAEDF came and helped us lay tile.
“That kind of commitment is something I don’t think we’d get anywhere else. We’re very happy with the way it turned out,” she said. While they have installed some playground equipment next to the patio, Laura said they plan to add a fenced-in playground for smaller children and walking trails around the pond and through the woods that surround the brewery. Seeing the attention created by the brewery, Laura thinks the company may need to expand soon.
“I do foresee us having to scale up our equipment and employment, too,” she said. “Duncan is really a community of culture,” said Chris Deal, president of the Duncan Chamber of Commerce. “The story today is one of friendship and love of community and relationships. And we’re here to celebrate with Laura, Chris, Kathryn and Lenny.” “This gives the entire community a gathering place to have fun, enjoy a little fellowship, and have the opportunity to do business,” said Roggow. “This place can be used for recruitment of other businesses we’re trying to bring in. You can close a deal here. That’s how I see it.
It shows that our community has new life, is progressing and moving forward,” he said. “We are really excited to show the community what we believe is a great gathering place where everybody can enjoy themselves,” said Chris. “The response we’re getting, and seeing everybody have a good time, that makes me feel good,” said Lenny.