Meet Mark & Chris Flynn
Longtime homebrewers and owners of one of Southeast Wisconsin’s top home brew stores (Hop to It), Mark and Chris took the plunge to move to commercial brewing back in June 2016.
Mark and Chris are no strangers to hard work supporting Wisconsin’s brewing heritage. Back in 2011-12, they took to the Wisconsin Legislature to fight for the rights of homebrewers to enjoy their tasty hobby. The Wisconsin Department of Revenue decided the year prior that homebrew was ONLY allowed to be consumed in the home where it was brewed. That meant no sharing with friends, no bringing it to tastings of local homebrew clubs, and no entering it into competitions.
Mark and Chris aggressively lobbied the members of the Legislature’s committee, including Republican Senator Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) and Democratic Senator Bob Wirch (D-Kenosha) to support homebrewers.
And they won.
Taking the next step to support Wisconsin’s brewing tradition, the Flynns undertook a massive restoration and renovation of their warehouse on 3rd & Wisconsin over the next 4 years, transforming a historic building into Littleport Brewing Company.
I’m thirsty…why did it take 4 years to open?
Grab a beer and settle in for a history lesson!
For a few decades after Racine was settled in the 1820s, Racine was projected to be the largest port on the western edge of Lake Michigan (yes, larger than both Chicago and Milwaukee).
Several large fires broke out in downtown Racine in the 1800’s, many of which devastated the surrounding area. The 1882 fire was so large that it took days to extinguish and required the services of the Chicago Fire Department, with its members racing here by train to help Racine battle the blaze. When renovations for Littleport began, it was discovered that encapsulated within the old wooden, tongue in groove ceiling were charred remnants of the 1882 conflagration.
At the end of this massive fire, the only building left unscarred was the metal-roofed D P Wigley building, located across Wisconsin Avenue from Littleport and home to both the D P Wigley store and the Hop to It home brew store. The Littleport building needed to be repaired before turning this piece of Racine’s history into a flagship for its future.
Ok, where did the name “Littleport” come from?
Those massive fires changed the history – and the future – of Racine. Because only one building was left undamaged (with many being damaged beyond use), Racine couldn’t fulfill its destiny as a large port (see where we’re going?)
But – that’s not the full story!
When the Flynns purchased the D P Wigley building complex (including the Littleport building), Chris’ father Melvin sought to help his daughter and son-in-law in their latest endeavor.
Now, Mark grew up in Racine, and Chris grew up in Milwaukee.
But where did Melvin grow up?
Melvin grew up in a tiny town in Iowa along the Volga River, about 15 miles downstream from the mighty Mississippi. Mark and Chris visited Melvin’s hometown several times, however – much like Racine – it faced devastation from natural disasters…in this case, flooding of the Mississippi and Volga Rivers. In 2000, the federal government ended their flood assistance plans for this town, and in 2001 the town was bulldozed to the ground and turned into a public park. When Melvin, Mark and Chris visited the new park, only one building remained – the town’s blacksmith shop, above which baby Melvin was born. A tear was evident in Melvin’s eye, as much as he tried to hide it.
The name of that town?