Shawnee Mission Faces: Christie Merandino, lead bartender and beer industry diversity advocate

Christie Merandino
Christie Merandino is operations manager of Transport Brewery

When Hurricane Irma hit in 2017, Christie Merandino was in Florida. The only flight available to evacuate took her to Kansas City. She liked the city and its craft brewing culture so much that she decided to relocate here. She has since become the operations manager of Transport Brewery in downtown Shawnee. She’s been in the craft beer industry for about five years. Based on some of her early experiences, she now travels across the country to educate on diversity and inclusion in the brewing industry. Her hobbies are “beer traveling” and hanging out with her dog, Stella.

I worked as a craft beer bartender at this little dive craft beer bar in Hoboken, New Jersey. That whole experience made me very interested in the craft beer industry. I started traveling around to the different breweries, reading all the beer blogs.

From there, I was working at the Jersey Shore and I just wanted more. So I moved to Florida. The second day I’d moved, I was sitting at a brewery and explaining a flight to my friend. The bartender heard me and said, do you just know craft beer or do you work in craft beer? I said, both. He said, do you want to work here? I was like, yeah, I’d like to work there.

After the first six months, I started to realize what was really happening. A few male employees hated me right off the bat because I was younger than them and I knew so much about craft beer, and because they wanted my job and it was offered to me.

One particular employee was just terrible to me. He would say awful things to me, make me feel like I was stupid. Just nasty, vile texts and emails. I went to my administration a few times and nothing ever happened from it. The other employees saw what was going on and they couldn’t believe it. Everybody was making good money and nobody was really being hurt but me.

I think the business felt stuck between a rock and a hard place because the beer was coming out amazing and it was being sold amazing. The fact that he didn’t stand up for me, I started to realize: OK, you’re in this alone and this is going to be an issue.

Eventually, I just started getting to know the industry and killing people with kindness and doing the best I could. I always felt that if my sales goals were high enough and I just tried to be as nice and fair as possible, then nobody would come after me. I just sold the heck out of great beer.

It’s still a predominantly male-dominated industry. You almost have to fight a little bit harder just to get your foot in the door, to be respected, to grow, to get the best numbers, to be taken seriously. But the reward is so fulfilling.

Being that people didn’t like me and was trying to expedite me failing, it just made me want to work harder. Because of that, the Florida Brewers Guild asked me to speak about diversity and inclusion and what I’m doing to make my footprint. I think it was something that started to be more known across Florida: how well the industry was doing, how well I was doing, and then — knowing that there could be some turmoil behind the walls of a brewery — how I just didn’t show it and kept succeeding because I believed in my values and the product.

I started to talk about how to overcome and to grow sales while still being respected and fighting for the greater cause: just to be treated fairly. Ultimately, my goal is that anyone that enters this industry knows that it might not be easy, but it is definitely worth it.

After the first time I spoke, I finally felt that I had a really good purpose. It’s when I realized that I truly did love my job, no matter who I worked with, because I’m creating a bigger footprint for every other woman that’s out there.”