Remembering Karen Sanderson

The impact of Karen’s life is wide reaching, and to say that she was my friend is a great and beautiful honor

By Maggie Doherty

2012 was a good year for me. I got married, renovation work began on the building that would house Kalispell Brewing Company, and Brix Bottleshop opened, bringing craft and international beers, incredible wines, gourmet cheeses and foods, and most importantly Karen Sanderson to the downtown community.

To say that I was excited about Brix is an understatement. I was thrilled that a store like it had opened, giving folks an impressive array of craft beers from all over the world. Holidays became extra exciting to add new wines to the menu and the selection the store offered enhanced my gift-giving status especially when said impressive bottle was presented with a hunk of fine cheese. Unfortunately for the gift’s receiver I would often insist that we sample both wine and cheese the moment the bottle came out of the bag and I flashed a corkscrew.

Yes, it’s likely no surprise for a person like me where craft beer is my livelihood that Brix and its offerings made a great impression on me. However, what mattered more than the lambics or strong winter ales was Brix’s owner, Karen. As a small business owner, Karen had the uncanny knack of making you feel like you were the only customer in the store (even when it was packed) and that you and your tastes were of paramount importance. Karen quickly became my friend, and a very enthusiastic supporter of the brewery-to-be.

Our bond quickly formed over our mutual love of beer and wine, and how these simple pleasures go beyond taste to create community, connection, and friendship. We were small business owners, and passionate about contributing to the revitalization and success of our downtown community. Karen became my peer in the industry, and as our friendship developed over the years she would become a mentor for me as well, guiding me through the challenges of what it meant to be a woman and a mother in the alcoholic beverage industry. I could rely on Karen for advice on hiring, relationship formation with industry partners, and to share creative ideas about how to make our businesses thrive. Of course she was always available to impart her wisdom on that great bottle of wine to add to a dinner or a recipe that would really shine on New Year’s Eve.

Karen was also dedicated to downtown Kalispell and she and I both served on the Board of Directors on the Kalispell Business Improvement District. I would often marvel at her unflappable passion for this community. Her energy was infectious, and I could always count on her, with her bright eyes and warm smile, to help me plow through whatever challenges I was facing.

On Sunday, October 20, Karen Sanderson died of a cancer. I cannot tell you how deeply she will be missed, and I offer my most sincere condolences to her family, friends, and all who knew her. In this time of sorrow, I cherish all my memories of her. The impact of Karen’s life is wide reaching, and to say that she was my friend is a great and beautiful honor.

May Karen’s memory continue to be a blessing.

Maggie Doherty is the owner of Kalispell Brewing Company on Main Street.

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