Or … finding hope in a Brewery and Zantorian.
December 4, 2016
Zantorian gives me hope for Ferguson. And hope this country.
My wife and I travel rather frequently to the Saint Louis, Missouri, area. The story of how we came to enjoy our little get-aways, away from beautiful Colorado, to the rusty and gray heartland Midwestern city will, perhaps, come in a later essay, or memoir.
As there have been no noteworthy protests, or riots, or fires in the past year, or so, many have forgotten about Ferguson, a community near St Louis. We have not.
As quick refresher, on August 9, 2014, 18-year old Ferguson resident Michael Brown was shot and killed on a street in Ferguson by police officer Darren Wilson. This was the spark. Protests followed, and quickly by riots and arson and looting.
Black Lives Matter, which was birthed by the killing of teenager Trayvon Martin the year earlier, organized mostly peaceful demonstrations across the country, and sprung to newfound significance in the St Louis area. These were BLM’s first in-person demonstrations.
When a St Louis County Grand Jury declined to indict Officer Wilson that November, heated protests began anew. Some violence flared up, and then – again – fires were set. To businesses and, this time, to police cars.
My wife and I visited Ferguson several months later, in early 2015. Burned out businesses were evident. Up and down both Florissant Avenues (the city has two major north-south streets named Florissant, the eponymous name of an adjacent city, just north of Ferguson). Also a few abandoned burned out businesses in nearby Dellwood, which didn’t seem to make the news.
Among all that despair and destruction, we found hope … in a brewery.
The Ferguson Brewery serves fine craft beers and a mixture of classic American cuisine – from burgers, to St Louis-style Barbeque, to Mexican – in its lovingly refurbished 100-year building at 418 South Florissant.
We stopped in, not knowing what to expect, just after visiting the floral memorial at the site of young Mr Brown’s death, on Canfield Drive.
Even on a weekday afternoon, toward the end of what you’d consider lunch hour, the place was nearly full. Patrons included blacks and whites, some sitting together, all chatting, enjoying the food, the beer and the atmosphere.
I’d met people from Ferguson, and the surrounding area, who were proudly pro-Ferguson. They believed the community was much stronger than what the news had shown. A BUYcott were organized to get St Louis locals to go to Ferguson and patronize local businesses.
I was hopeful. There seemed to be promise of recovery and the Brewery was a good sign of it. But things soon changed.
Fire broke out again, in June, 2015. At the friendly little brewery and restaurant a fluorescent light was left on overnight in the kitchen. Sadly, the aged wiring was not up to the job, and a fire broke out. It spread quickly. By the time the fire was discovered around 2AM, by a policeman on patrol, the fire was extensive. There wasn’t much for the heralded and award-winning Ferguson Fire Department to do but control the fire. [1 
There was significant damage to the kitchen, the interior building structure, roof and all furnishings. Worst was perhaps the smoke and water damage. Just about everything had to go.
Like many other of the local businesses, victims of fires, the Ferguson Brewery shut down. But not for long.
Brewery owner, Mike Loreno, set his mind to re-opening as soon as possible. Brewery operations were moved off-site. Restoration to the structure relied on Loreno’s will, as well as a tight relationship the local restaurants had formed with each other – and the community – to stay afloat during the difficult times of the riots.
Ferguson pulled together for their brewery, raising funds and pitching in. It’s the kind of positive news you don’t get on CNN or Fox. Just not sensational enough.
Less than 6 months later, Ferguson Brewery — in the same 100-plus year old building, complete with kitchen, new brewery and dining area — was open for business.
My wife and I stopped in last weekend, on our way out of St Louis, to Lambert Airport.
It was beautiful. We were struck by how everything simply looked and smelled splendid. Evidently the bar – the centerpiece of the establishment’s beauty – was recovered and completely restored. Everything else was replaced … but you couldn’t tell. It looked like before and had the same comfortable chairs, stools, tables and atmosphere we remembered.
We sat next to a table of 20 or so blacks from the Trinity Mount Carmel Baptist Church having their holiday party for their army of ushers. It was pretty cool to see this twist: an overworked White wait-person serving a party of Blacks. [TMC Baptist’s website]
Not drinkers by faith, they seemed to be having a great time, nonetheless – even the two young boys, occupied with each other mostly. (Although one lady confided – on the QT – that she enjoys an occasional glass of wine).
One of the boys grew bored and was offered a large cell phone to play with. After a while he was still looking a bit bored, clicking and swiping, and he noticed, between his games, that I was sneaking peeks at him. He soon walked the few feet to our booth and showed me what he was doing: playing Wheel of Fortune.
“Hi. What’s your name?”
A reply as firm and snappy as you like. “My name is Zantorian. That’s Z-A-N-T-O-R-I-A-N. But you may call me Tory. Tory with a Y. I’m six years old and I’m pretty good at this game.”
Neither Tory nor his aunt or mum had any reservations about him climbing onto my lap so we could play together. My grandpa juices started flowing.
I don’t know how long it was – too short for me (thank goodness Audrey took a few photos) – but too soon it was time for Tory and his merry group of ushers to begin leaving. He was not very happy about that. He didn’t complain, he was too polite for that, but it showed in his body language.
One of the older ladies – the same one who confessed to an occasional glass of wine – made sure we knew that we would be very, very welcome if we visited them at Trinity, in neighboring Florissant. “Wouldn’t we please visit them next time we get a chance? That’s Trinity — Mount — Carmel!”
She said it slowly and deliberately. She really meant it and wanted us to remember. Gosh, how could we say no?
Tory’s aunt took her phone back, and a few minutes of long good-byes among the Trinity Mount Carmel ushers ensued … during which time Tory took the opportunity to wonder what fun he could have with Grandpa Joe’s phone. Without hesitation, he picked it up and scrolled back-and-forth through the panels, looking for an icon that appeared interesting. Unfortunately for him, there aren’t any, except maybe Duolingo – the language learning app.
So he tapped that, and a review lesson for German came up. “Ein Junge” – appropriately enough. The only thing better would have been if Duolingo popped open with “Ein Enkel.” [These mean “A boy” and “A grandson].
“What’s THAT!?!” Before I could answer (thankfully, it would have meant nothing), he closed that app, and waved panels to find “Sky Map.”
“Tory, this will show you the names and places of all the stars you can see in the sky.”
“REALLY? That’s cool”
“Tory, we really have to go now” said auntie and mom.
He gave me back my phone. He hopped down, and obediently let each of them take one hand.
As they walked out, Tory’s head was turned like Linda Blair’s, trying to keep eye contact with me and Audrey. We waved.
“Bye Tory. Hope to see you again soon.”
Joe Girard © 2016
Final note: The Mall of America, near Minneapolis, has hired a Black Santa.
It’s quite the rage on the internet (for some reason) and looks wonderful. His name is Larry Jefferson, but prefers to go by “Santa Larry.” This picture is just great.
 Ferguson Fire Department website: http://www.firedepartment.net/directory/missouri/saint-louis-county/ferguson/ferguson-fire-department
 Awards for the Ferguson Fire Department: http://www.stltoday.com/news/special-reports/heroes/greater-st-louis-fire-chiefs-association-awards/article_41275877-9166-5f6b-9ca5-00e4e9863279.html