or, Who Says You Can't Go Home
By now, it’s a tale as time-tested and true as any – ambitious youth, starry-eyed and dreaming of something big, leaves the small town for the Big City. Lo and behold, he’s got what it takes, succeeding beyond even his own considerable ambitions. But the lure of home and family remains strong, and when life’s circumstances again draw him back to his roots, he finds himself more at home than he ever thought he could be.
Not a bad story, right? Shoot, it could even make a great Hollywood movie. If only there were someone nearby with experience in such matters…
Ryan Craig doesn’t exude Hollywood flash, and he’s not quick to gloat about the people he’s met, the places he’s been, or the movies he’s made. Although he certainly could.
Instead, to encounter Ryan these days often entails a trip to the Brewstation, where in addition to bartending he often holds court on one of his other favorite topics – sports – and flashes his winning smile at customers who can’t help but smile back.
He probably can’t quite believe it himself, but it’s been close to 25 years since Ryan left his hometown of Cottage Grove to move to L.A. and work in the film industry. Since then, he’s directed for television; he’s also written, produced and co-starred in a feature film that he sold to Lions Gate, which became his springboard to a 13-year writing deal at Warner Brothers.
His first picture happened at home, actually, featuring Cottage Grove police officers and locations around town. This early work caught the attention of one Tom Cruise, then in Eugene to make a film called “Without Limits.” An offer to make films with a much bigger budget soon followed.
“That was literally my film school,” he said. “A few years later, I’m in LA going full-tilt.”
He’d be away for 22 years. But as has been the case with many of us, the Covid lockdown changed his industry forever, and a writer’s strike pretty much slowed things to a standstill. So when the need to come home and tend to some family business arose, Ryan found himself a secluded cabin, and he found himself back in Oregon.
“I thought coming back here would be a culture shock,” he said. “But Cottage Grove has changed so much, and with more access to the outside world, it doesn’t feel as small here anymore. I love it – there’s no stress. I’m getting to reconnect with a community I haven’t been part of since the 90s. I’m seeing old high school friends, and the parents and grandparents of my friends. There are also lots of new people who have moved here for different reasons, and that’s really cool too.”
Ryan also found that a high school friend had started a business that had carved out quite a niche in town.
“I found out Emily had started a bar here,” he says of our owner. “There was never much to do in town when I was here, so to come home and have a really cool place to visit when I’d visit my folks was really positive. And to see what she’s done 10 years later…I was impressed, and I wanted to be part of it.”
And so it came to be that, when he’s not holed up in his cabin writing a mystery novel that he’s decidedly mysterious about, Ryan can be found pulling pints and chewing the fat with our beloved regular customers.
“To be part of something that a friend has put her heart and soul into, that’s something I can be proud to be part of,” he said. “I love the way Emily and Dale let their employees’ personalities show. There’s no dress code. People can come be who they are; it really builds people’s confidence, gives them the freedom to be themselves.”
So at this point, is Ryan shocked at how things turned out? Maybe not.
“There’s always been part of me that knew I’d be back,” he said.