Cousins take family business in new direction with launch of Last Flight Brewing Company

by Mike Murphy, originally printed in Jefferson City BUZ, Volume 3, Issue 5

First-cousins Mark and Jared Cowley got to know each other even better sharing an office at the family business in Jefferson City. They’d realized for some time that sooner-or-later they would have to find new jobs. After many hours of conversation and planning, they decided to take Jared’s love and talent for brewing beer and combine it with Mark’s business experience and acumen. The result is Last Flight Brewing Company which opened recently in Jefferson City.

The Cowley family has owned and operated a magazine and book wholesale business, headquartered in Jefferson City, since 1957. At its peak, it had 400 employees in nine states staffing 15 distribution sites and running 225 delivery trucks. The elder Cowley brothers, John, Jerry and Jeff, sold that business to publicly-traded American News Company in late 2019. The brothers continue to operate seven bookstores in Missouri, including Downtown Book & Toy in Jefferson City.

“We knew there wouldn’t be a long-term place for us after the sale,” said Mark Crowley, John’s son. “We decided we’d rather work for ourselves and start our own family business.”

Mark and Jared Cowley both graduated from Helias, a couple years apart, and headed off to college – Mark to the University of Notre Dame, and Jared to Truman State. After graduating, Mark spent some time working in Chicago and travelling; Jared in Kansas City. Ultimately, both married, started families, and found themselves working together at the family business back in Jefferson City.

To create a venue for the brewery, they renovated a portion of the company’s warehouse on Heisinger Road, just off Missouri Blvd. in the middle of town. Situated near the Jefferson City greenway trail, with a large parking lot and surrounding greenspace, the location seems ideal for the family-oriented and open-air environment the Crowley’s are trying to create.

Jared Crowley, Jeff’s son, also enlisted the help of his father-in-law, Kris Cook, to build the bar that is the centerpiece of the tap room. Kris also helped install the cooler, painted the entire brewery, and was instrumental throughout construction. 

The tap room has 12 beers on tap. There is a can sealer that allows for fresh-canned beers to go, as well as traditional 64-ounce growlers. The owners have arranged with local food trucks to be on site regularly.