Column | The calculus of a great local business: Function Brewing changes owners

I will miss Steve and Arlyn Llewelyn as owners of Function Brewing.

A pint of Theorem at Function Brewing on Jan. 14, 2022.

It’s the brewpub downstairs from my 6th Street apartment in downtown Bloomington, Indiana.

They have sold the business to Endeavor Hospitality Group, a Bloomington firm that owns several other local restaurants.

Sadie Clark, director of operations at Endeavor, confirmed the acquisition in an email to The B Square on Wednesday.

Function Brewing joins Southern Stone, Grazie Italiano, Garnish Catering, Underground Bakery, The Owlery, Feast, Market and Cellar, The Fresh Fork, The Court Room, Beaumont House, and Wagon Wheel Meats as part of the family of businesses that Endeavor has acquired.

On Friday, the official publicity came in the form of a personal message from Steve and Arlyn on the brewery’s Facebook Page.

Steve and Arlyn launched the brewery in 2014, right around this time of year. Their message posted on Friday reflected on those eight years: “The last eight years have been full of joy but also deeply exhausting. Owning a business is hard; and this past year, in particular, has been brutally hard. Honestly, we just couldn’t do it any longer.”

About the new owners, the message adds, “We are thrilled and relieved to hand off our business to a local company with more energy and resources than we have, that can take our little brewery and grow it in ways that we could only imagine.”

What is great about Function Brewing? For one thing Steve brews great beer.

But I am not an aficionado of beer—I cannot tell you the difference between a stout, an ale, a lager or a porter. I had to look up “kinds of beer” on the internet in order to type out that list.

No matter what Steve brewed up as a special, I would always order the same beer that I knew I liked. And I’m going to keep ordering it under the new ownership. It’s called Theorem.

Like Theorem, all the beers on tap at Function have mathematically-themed names. That’s because Steve is not just a beer nerd. He is a regular nerd—an engineer by training.

It was Arlyn who named the brewery, after a basic mathematical object—a function.

A function is at its core a set of ordered pairs. That much I didn’t have to look up on the internet, because I studied math as an undergrad, and I remember some of it.

So with all due respect to Endeavor Hospitality, in my head, here’s how I will always define the function of Function Brewing:

{(Arlyn, Steve)}

I’m going to keep going downstairs and drinking Theorem beer, because Steve and Arlyn created a place where I feel like I’m at home. And I think that sense of place is going to stick with Function.

Steve and Arlyn always hired people who understood how to make the place their kind of special.

They hired servers who get my favorite joke: Why do I always order a pint of Theorem? Because I need to have something to prove.

One young woman laughed hard at that joke, then added, “I love dad jokes.” That cut kinda deep, but I am almost over it.

So when they chose Endeavor Hospitality Group as the new owners, I am happy to trust their judgement. I think Function will continue to be the kind of special place that Steve and Arlyn created.

Key to the place is the people who work there.

As Steve and Arlyn’s message says, “In the days, weeks, and months ahead, please remember that almost everyone is struggling right now. Please be kind, generous, and supportive to businesses and staff who are working under incredible strain and attempting not to show it to you.”

Continuity is a big deal when it comes to mathematical functions. If new owners mean that Function Brewing is now some kind of derivative, I think that’s OK. Because any function that has a derivative at some point P is also continuous at P. That’s a theorem. You can prove it. And it means Function Brewing will keep going.

Anyhow, thank you, Steve and Arlyn. You made something that is going to last. But boy, I’m still gonna miss you.