A common theme emerges when talking with Spokane residents who have been beneficiaries of No-Li Brewhouse owners John and Cindy Bryant’s community efforts: The Bryants give selflessly, generously and extensively.
The Bryants met in college at Washington State University, have two sons and one daughter and will celebrate their 32nd anniversary on Thursday. They came to Spokane in 2012 to help transform Northern Lights Brewing Co. into the brand now known as No-Li and significantly boost production. Numerous awards followed, and a new beer hall in space next door to the Brewhouse is on the horizon in the new year. They’ve been the sole owners of No-Li since 2015.
During the pandemic, as their brewery struggled just as many other local businesses did, the Bryants raised and donated more than $550,000 to more than 75 businesses through many efforts, including their annual 25 Days of Christmas, during which No-Li donates money to one charity each day for 25 days. They also have formed deep partnerships with local organizations, including Spokane Quaranteam, Spokane Food Fighters and Toys for Tots.
“People were hurting out there, and we wanted to make a bright light for people today and tomorrow,” said Cindy Bryant, who was born and raised in Spokane. “It all started with Logan (Elementary School). When we heard that the schools weren’t going to be able to provide meals for a week … we are in their neighborhood, and we had to do something.”
Cindy Bryant’s father also grew up in Spokane and attended Logan.
There is more to the Bryants’ story than the long list of beneficiaries and the hundreds of thousands of dollars raised in and for Eastern Washington. At the heart of the Bryants’ efforts is community.
“We are at our best when we’re needed,” John Bryant added. “And I think we’ve just started. Now is the time we are needed, and the whole community makes No-Li work. It’s all these collaborations that come together that make it work. We are a community brand, and we serve the community. This is a No-Li community journey.”
Spokane Food Fighters
At the start of the pandemic, the Bryants assisted Spokane Food Fighters, which was created by state Rep. Marcus Riccelli and provided meals to those in need, especially people in the Logan Neighborhood.
“I thought they would be a perfect partner because they were already engaged in the community and in food efforts,” Riccelli said. “We were really concerned about all these students out of school because of COVID who get their meals from school. No-Li Brewhouse was one of our first restaurant partners for meals, and they contributed financially, too. They really got it.”
What started as a small effort of 25 meals would eventually total more than 130,000. The Bryants’ efforts as part of Spokane Food Fighters included making “Stay Strong” T-shirts and providing operational space at the No-Li Brewhouse parking lot, 1003 E. Trent Ave.
“They gave financially way past where it hurts while their very own business was taking a huge financial hit with COVID,” Riccelli said. “They are great people who believe in this community, and throughout the pandemic, they have shown what the potential of our community is and the goodness that organically comes about when we join together.”
Teen & Kid Closet
KXLY anchor Robyn Nance is the co-founder of Teen & Kid Closet, a nonprofit that provides free clothes for kids living in poverty in Eastern Washington and North Idaho.
The outlet, 307 E. Sprague Ave., has been open for 14 years and served about 2,000 kids last year, but the collaboration with No-Li Brewhouse didn’t start immediately, Nance said. However, she kept running into the Bryants and thanking them for their community service, and something clicked.
“We met with them, and they were sold on the grassroots way we run our organization,” Nance said. “Cindy, because she’s a CASA (court-appointed special advocate), she said, ‘I know a lot of the families you’re helping, and it’s amazing.’ She became one of our board members.”
CASA volunteers are appointed by a family court judge to advocate for the best interests of abused and neglected children within the court system.
“I was just so impressed with their community-mindedness. They don’t have to give, and they just keep doing it,” Nance said. “At a time, especially during COVID, when businesses are trying to stay afloat, they kept giving even though it was hard.”
Cindy Bryant has been following Spokane Quaranteam and its founder Rick Clark, this year’s Santa Claus on the cover of the Christmas Eve edition of The Spokesman-Review and a 2020 Difference Maker, since the beginning. When Clark met the Bryants, more than 180 restaurants had been helped by the nonprofit, but No-Li Brewhouse wasn’t one of them. The Quaranteam has purchased meals from local restaurants struggling as a result of the pandemic and donated them to the hungry.
Around that time, Clark had spoken to a group of student-athletes on Gonzaga’s campus, and they raised $9,000 in 40 minutes through a video fundraiser on the Quaranteam’s Facebook page. The students chose No-Li alongside a small group of beneficiary restaurants and shelters because No-Li was one of their favorites.
Upon formally meeting the Bryants and offering them $1,500, John Bryant asked Clark, “Can I help someone else with that money?” “We bought food from Jack and Dan’s right down the street because they had been struggling,” Clark said.
“I thought it was just really cool that he had this opportunity to take this money, and he decided to split it with his neighbor. We bought meals from both restaurants and fed a couple shelters in Spokane.”
In November, the relationship continued, as the Bryants raised $25,000 for Spokane Quaranteam and Toys for Tots in a manner of days via sales of cases of No-Li hard seltzer. Cindy Bryant said one gentleman was so moved by the fundraiser that he walked into No-Li and wrote a check for $3,000 for Toys for Tots. Quaranteam also was a recipient of the 25 Days of Christmas.
“The more you give, the more that comes back to you,” Clark said. “The Bryants are so active in the community helping so many causes. The moment we tagged No-Li in posts, hundreds of people shared what No-Li means to them, how they’ve helped their family and how important they are to the community. That really says something.”
Besides helping restaurants and donating meals, Spokane Quaranteam has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars and given away more than 300 Christmas trees, seven cars and 1,400 doughnuts, among many other efforts.
“It has become a movement of kindness and compassion in this dark time, and the Bryants are a big part of it,” Clark said. “They are wonderful people.”
Alene Anderson is one of the founders of the nonprofit Embrace Washington, which supports foster families in Eastern Washington by providing funds and activities to the families and their children to have experiences in sports, education, health care and more.
“We wouldn’t have Embrace Washington if it wasn’t for folks like Cindy and John, who have honored us with fundraisers and donations,” Anderson said.
Earlier in the year, the Bryants decided to award four nonprofits $20,000 each, and Embrace Washington was one of the recipients. The donation was $10,000 from No-Li Brewhouse and a matching $10,000 gift from the Spokane Firefighters Union.
“The gift was great because COVID has been very hard on nonprofits, including ours,” Anderson said. “We really want to continue our work with foster children. Cindy is a CASA worker, so she has a special place in her heart for foster children.”
Anderson noted that the Bryants have aided a long list of organizations addressing a broad array of concerns, including homelessness, domestic violence and foster care.
“It’s an honor to be able to write some checks,” John Bryant said. “Our goal is to serve the underserved, the disenfranchised and the marginalized. We work on the fringes to make them not fringes and to make them stronger.”
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