OAK PARK – Their story is as unique as the building.
At the corner of Lake Street and Austin Boulevard sits a venue that was built as a bank and still has the look of it nearly a century after its construction. It also served as a funeral home for Oak Park, but it found new life in this century as the catalyst for a dream.
Jason Alfonsi and Shawn Stevens decided to leave their careers to start a new one in the beer industry in 2015, taking over the building and starting construction for what would become their brewery. Four years later, “One Lake Brewing” was opened, taking its own unique spin in a crowded beer industry.
At the same time, they wanted to be a place for their community to gather while also giving what they could to Oak Park and the surrounding area.
“We’re embedded and committed to our community,” said Stevens. “We partner with a lot of local businesses, schools, charities and we try to constantly provide a fundraising outlet and a place to gather.”
In many ways, that’s the essence of what One Lake Brewing and the entire industry in the state is doing right now as they participate in Illinois Craft Beer Week. It’s a celebration that’s been off for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic but as returned as a way to bring exposure to the many different brewers in Chicago along with the “Land of Lincoln.”
The idea of “community” meant so much during the COVID-19 pandemic that shutdown indoor dining across the state. One Lake was one of the places that had to pivot their beer and food sales to delivery, and when restrictions remained in place during the winter, and to have a few people on a third-floor patio in frigid temperatures.
Yet those in Oak Park and surrounding areas did enough to keep One Lake in business, which also happened with a number of other breweries as well.
“As soon as COVID hit, we had to pivot, and without the community’s support, I wouldn’t be talking to you right now,” said Alfonsi.
That’s not just customers hat made up this community of support but also other breweries in the area that continued to lend a hand in hopes of keeping others running. Stevens noted this is a unique part of the industry not just during the pandemic but in other times when a fellow business is in need.
“People are really looking out for you. They appreciate the differences,” said Stevens. “The competition doesn’t feel like it’s something that we need to even think about, because we all have our own niche, we all have our own style.”
Along with their own sense of community, whether in any direction of Illinois, Chicago, or on the corner of Lake and Austin in Oak Park.
See more on the events that are going on during Illinois Craft Beer Week here.