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Entrepreneur Jim Brewer remembered as Bricktown visionary

By Steve Lackmeyer Modified: November 12, 2008 at 8:30 am •  Published: November 12, 2008
The greeting on Jim Brewer’s cell phone remained the same for years: “This is Jim Brewer; it’s a wonderful day in Bricktown” That message was still in place as Brewer died late Monday at home, surrounded by wife Patsy, his sons Brent and Brett and their wives Lori and Sonya.

“That was his view — it was a beautiful day in Bricktown and he wanted others to know it,” said longtime friend John Michael Williams.

  • From rags to riches

    Brewer was a classic rags to riches story — a boy born in poverty who never knew his father and once had to live in a chicken coop. At his death Brewer remained one of the largest land owners in Bricktown with an empire worth millions. In a June interview with The Oklahoman, Brewer explained how he climbed out of poverty, first by working at his uncle’s salvage yard, which then led Brewer to open his own shop.

    An acquaintance introduced him to the nightclub business, which then allowed him to invest in oil. Good timing at each step of the way allowed him to buy up key properties in Bricktown at bargain pric- es as the mid-1980s oil bust sank the city and state into a virtual economic depression.

    “Most of the businesses I got into over the years, I was lucky,” Brewer said. “I got out and worked, and I worked hard. But I was lucky.”

    Williams said Tuesday Brewer’s success involved more than luck.

    “He had a unique ability to perceive opportunities where others did not,” said Williams, who initially approached Brewer about investing in Bricktown. “Others saw problems; Jim Brewer saw opportunities. He was a true visionary.”

  • Buying up

    Brewer was one of three people to buy up the remains of Bricktown when the original development group led by the late Neal Horton went bankrupt.

    While Brewer bought buildings along what is now the Bricktown Canal, Jim Tolbert and Don Karchmer purchased a row of smaller buildings along Sheridan that were renovated into offices.

    Tolbert recalled it was Brewer who drew the community into the district by hosting parades and festivals and opening the haunted warehouse every Halloween.

    “There really wouldn’t have been a Bricktown if not for Jim,” Tolbert said.

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