Skeleton Key Brewery ravaged in Woodridge, but a special memento survived the tornado

  • Skeleton Key Brewery co-owner John Szopa talks about how his Woodridge business was heavily damaged by Sunday's tornado.

    Skeleton Key Brewery co-owner John Szopa talks about how his Woodridge business was heavily damaged by Sunday's tornado. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

  • A "challenge coin" is one of the items saved from the Skeleton Key Brewery in Woodridge. The coin would be used for customers to win fun items.

    A "challenge coin" is one of the items saved from the Skeleton Key Brewery in Woodridge. The coin would be used for customers to win fun items. Paul Valade | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 6/23/2021 6:35 AM

Skeleton Key Brewery & Taproom in Woodridge was one of the few nonresidential buildings to take a direct hit from the tornado Sunday.

Opened in 2016, Skeleton Key was just weeks into a new taproom expansion. A lot of custom-made decor, collectible silk-screen posters and product-design artwork was destroyed.

 

Skeleton Key is a family affair. Co-owners Paul and Emily Slayton of Downers Grove are married, while co-owner John Szopa of Westmont is Emily's brother.

Emily Slayton and Szopa were back at their business Tuesday to salvage what they could from a structure that will likely be condemned.

"Just little things that have meaning from the course of use," Emily Slayton said.

One small item Slayton salvaged was a "challenge coin." It looks like an old American silver dollar on one side, with a sculpted skeleton design on the other side.

"We would flip it for special things to win for our members," said Slayton, who added the coin was gifted to them by members of Skeleton Key's "Mug Club."

Slayton and Szopa are grateful to their loyal customers, many of whom have already contributed to a gofundme.com fundraiser to assist with cleanup and rebuilding costs.

"That's something I never imagined being beneficiaries of," Slayton said.

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