Free State Brewing Co.
Chuck Magerl’s entry into business began in the three aisles and back room of his grandfather’s butcher shop and grocery. It was a small shop in Kansas City’s west side meat packing neighborhood where, as a child, he would help around the shop and tag along on delivery runs.
Perhaps this background helps to explain why he abandoned the pre-med program at the University of Kansas to help establish the Community Mercantile grocery in Lawrence, where he remained as part of the management collective for a decade. The store’s efforts were focused on establishing an alternative food network, linking regional co-op warehouses, and seeking local suppliers, some of whom were part of the “back to the land” movement.
Chuck briefly returned to KU to study Environmental Engineering, an endeavor that he abandoned when he resolved to open the first Lawrence brewery in over 100 years. The Free State Brewery, a fixture in the vibrancy of Downtown Lawrence, opened in 1989. The brewery has continued to be a major promoter of local foods and a regional supplier of craft beer.
In partnership with long-time friend Thom Leonard, Chuck helped establish WheatFields Bakery Café, which crafts organic Kansas wheat into flavorful loaves and serves meals built around breads baked in the classic wood-fired oven.
During his 40 years of business in Lawrence, Chuck has served on numerous City task forces, and held positions with the Chamber of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau. He has been tapped to serve on advisory boards for the Kansas University Natural History Museum and the Anthropology Museum, was inducted into the Lawrence Business Hall of Fame, and participated in Leadership Kansas.
Although he was once mighty tempted to accept an offer to manage a California organic produce company, Chuck’s proud to be a Kansan. As a disciple of Wes Jackson, the sage of Salina, Chuck still finds humor in Wes’ quip, “Any fool can appreciate California; it takes real character to appreciate Kansas.”