(Written by Contributing Writer, Heather Ryerson)
April 29 marked a milestone for the Ebony and Ivory Brewing duo of Chico Dupas and Mitchell Russell, celebrating their Grand Opening. We first introduced these friends to you in April of 2021 and shared their backgrounds and plans for their new brewery. They had big dreams and goals for opening their 2300 North Central St. location and are now reaping the benefits of hard work and seeing those dreams come true.
Open now for six months, they weathered the slow season and are excited for the warmer weather, patio dining, and more people venturing out to socialize and find a great craft brew to enjoy. The Ebony ad Ivory Grand Opening brought this and more! Customers took advantage of games, live music, activities for kids, and the inviting space for pets.
Hard Knox Pizza has also opened its 3rd Knoxville location 2 doors down and joined the celebration. I couldn’t think of a better pairing than that! The husband and I enjoyed the beautiful day as well as the pizza and beer specials with the other celebrants before heading to the Dogwood Arts Festival at World’s Fair Park. Ebony and Ivory is starting weekly block party events on Thursdays with Hard Knox Pizza specials beginning on May 18th.
Chico tells me he is most proud of how he and Mitchell are successfully learning the business side of entrepreneurship. Unlike many new businesses, they do not have a silent partner. Mitchell and Chico are the only ones behind the scenes brewing beer and balancing the books. By all accounts, both are going well.
They use a bonsai tree as part of their logo. Curious about the symbolism, I asked Chico why they chose it. He talked me through it and shared this excerpt from their business plan. “It has been accepted that a Bonsai Tree symbolizes harmony, peace, balance, and all that is good in nature. The curves on the bark and the lines of the branches symbolize the harmonious co-existence of the elements. The crooked corners, black and white jagged edges, and knots symbolize difficult moments in its life. The symbolism and history of the Bonsai Tree speaks to the overall vision of Ebony & Ivory Brewing Co. We seek to create a harmonious environment in which all groups of people can co-exist in peace.
In this life, there will be difficult times that we will face as individuals. These difficult times may result in physical and mental scars, yet through perseverance, understanding, and loving hearts, we can all thrive together. Ebony & Ivory Brewing will continue to manifest these ideas in its brewing endeavors focusing on inclusion and education of all walks of life. After settling on a logo that symbolizes the essence of E&I, efforts progressed to the development of our mission statement:
“Ebony & Ivory Brewing Co. seeks to encourage diversity, inclusivity, and communal growth by creating approachable beers and providing an environment that is welcoming to all walks of life.”
You are welcomed by friendly staff and a diverse musical playlist when you walk in. Ebony and Ivory actively seek multicultural entertainment for their live events and want everyone from the craft beer novice to the most knowledgeable to feel invited and comfortable in their space. They host poetry slam events, live music, game nights, and meetings for groups focusing on inclusion and community. They will work with The Bottom Knox for a Books and Brews event, and a painting night hosted by Painting with a Twist is coming up. They also invite a wide array of food trucks to tempt the palette nightly.
Chico said they are grateful for the diverse crowds coming in their doors and feel like they are achieving their goal of inclusivity and collaboration. They partner with several local breweries to create new brews (Yee-Haw, Crafty Bastard, Elst, Geezers, and Clinch River). They host groups like Rooted East, Keep Knoxville Beautiful, KEC, Young Professionals of Knoxville, and others for local meetups and community investment. Ebony and Ivory are positioned further away from downtown on North Central. Chico feels the area has worked to their advantage, allowing them to promote other breweries nearby, such as Elst Brewing, and giving folks further to the east more options.
They have a 16-pour tap and currently have 15 of their brews pouring. They have a guest tap for local breweries (it varies) to supplement a variation they may still need to prepare. The goal is to continue to increase sales volume to the point they can invest in a more extensive barrel system to stay on top of demand and allow for more creativity in the brews. Because they are smaller, they are brewing at least three times a week to meet demand, the most popular being the Honey Ale. This is the brew that had friends and family urging them to open their business together.
Chico and I also discussed his philosophy of getting comfortable with being uncomfortable. Like many people of color, he has felt uncomfortable in many environments. Instead of avoiding that feeling, he encourages others to lean into it. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. He believes if you never feel uncomfortable in an environment, you should intentionally put yourself in an environment that will make you uncomfortable. That feeling helps you learn more about yourself and grow from it. If you press into discomfort, you can learn more about others and challenge false stereotypes you may not even know you had.
This philosophy has helped Chico and Mitchell to be aware of the environment they are creating at Ebony and Ivory. They are taking the things that have traditionally made specific communities feel unwelcome and turning those around. They want all walks of life to feel welcomed and important and feel part of their family.
Have you been to Ebony and Ivory Brewing? What was your favorite brew?
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram for updates on events and craft brews!
Ebony & Ivory Brewing
2300 N Central St, suite 101
Knoxville, Tennessee 37917
Tuesday 4:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Wednesday 4:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Thursday 4:30 pm – 9:00 pm
Friday 4:30 pm – 10:00 pm
Saturday 12:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Sunday 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm