ESTACADA, Ore. (KOIN) — A man walks confidently to the counter of his local bar and places his order, using a well-practiced sequence of hand signs. Others take a few tries to get the numbers right, or choose the path of least resistance, and scrawl their order on a whiteboard. No matter which route customers take, Mark Long and his partner Linnea Landberg welcome them warmly to Clackamas River Growlers.
The bar opened in April 2016 on Estacada’s Main Street. By the Chamber of Commerce’s best guess, Clackamas River Growlers is the first business in the city with deaf owners.
Long grew up in California, but moved to Portland about 12 years ago, where he first encountered microbrews. He wanted to learn more, and fell in love with it.
“I liked beer, so I thought I’d start a business,” he said. At that point, he had moved closer to Estacada, and thought it would be the perfect location.
“I’m learning a lot from Mark,” Landberg said. “He just knows what to do, how to make things happen.”
Having previously worked in construction, Long did much of the woodworking inside the bar, including building the tables.
“Most everything he’s just done himself,” Landberg said. “There have been a few friends who came and helped … We’re really blessed. We have really really great friends that support us. It makes this place special for everybody in a small town.”
They have 32 taps, mostly IPAs, light brews, stouts and craft beers. Last summer they added cannabidiol (CBD) drinks which have been very popular, according to Long.
Clackamas River Growlers also hosts events. Monday night is trivia night. A favorite among the regulars, Landberg said it can get really crowded, and customers bring in food potluck style. Tuesdays are open mic night.
Jay Shibley likes to come in on the weekends after kayaking and study.
“It’s a nice environment to be in,” he said. “(Long and Landberg) are great people.”
They feel the same way about their customers.
“I’m mostly impressed with the older people,” Long said. “They come in first and they meet me, the deaf owner, and they are surprised but that’s great and they converse with me and have some beers and everything has just been fantastic.”
“I think (a lot of regulars) come in here partially for that,” Shibley said. “They like interacting in that way with the owners. I know that a lot of people have tons of fun.”
Some customers and employees are even learning American Sign Language as a result.
Locals aren’t the only ones taking notice of the bar, though.
Deaf customers come from Portland and Vancouver weekly, according to Long. They have even had deaf customers from other countries stop in, curious to meet them.
“We want to show the deaf that they can do it,” Long said. “They can start their business or do anything they want. The deaf can do whatever they want.”