Exit Strategy Brewing is closing its doors after eight years in business – though the owners, husband and wife Chris and Katherine Valleau, said they might return somewhere down the line.
In a joint statement posted on the company’s Facebook page, the couple alluded to the mental toll of trying to run a small business and wrote that they needed to take a break. The last day in business will be Oct. 29, and all of the events scheduled for up to that point will still go on as planned.
Exit Strategy has been leasing the building at 7700 Madison St. David King, a commercial leasing agent, got the couple into the space eight years ago. He told the Review he would be looking for another tenant this time around. He said he was confident finding one wouldn’t be a problem.
“We are starting on it shortly,” King said. “We will explore all options. Which one is going to be the right one — I don’t know yet.”
In their statement, the couple thanked the customers and the staff, but wrote that they needed a break.
“We need to pause. We need to reboot. We need a respite from the constant uphill battle,” they wrote. “We aren’t disappearing for good. We’re taking a break. We’re addressing our mental health and our physical wellbeing, because guys, this is a tough life. This industry is hard no matter who or how big you are.”
Still, they added they learned a lot from the experience, and “learning is never wasted.”
“We’re so proud of what we’ve done,” they wrote. “We’ve been a safe, welcoming, inclusive and equitable space. We’ve helped humans and we’ve made incredible beer and we’re so very proud of that.”
While Exit Strategy Brewing opened in 2015, its origins go back three years earlier, when Katherine Valleau taught at Forest Park School District 91 and Chris Valleau practiced law. As the two previously told the Review, Chris Valleau was unhappy at his job, and Katherine Valleau thought that she needed a hobby he could enjoy. She suggested brewing, and Chris Valleau quickly embraced the idea.
While they were originally content to see their brews at events, a visit to Greenbush Brewery in Sawyer, Michigan inspired them to take it a step further. They purchased a book titled, How to Start a Brewery, and spent two years drafting a business plan. They found a location within walking distance of their home – the former Classic Electric building, which had been vacant for 10 years. It took the couple six months to address the mold, remove asbestos and generally renovate it for their purposes.
Katherine Valleau previously told the Review that the first two years were “rough,” but things “got better” in 2017.
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic forced them to lay off staff and close for several weeks, but they were able to rebound as COVID-19 mitigation restrictions relaxed.
Over the years, Exit Strategy has been a venue for events and fundraisers. Most recently, they have been hosting the Soup and Bread dinner fundraisers, which raise funds for food pantries on Chicago’s West Side and western suburbs, including Forest Park’s own community fridge at the Mohr Community Center.
This is a developing story