Cold Water’s Brown a groundbreaker, celebrates 5 years at Lake Tahoe |

Cold Water’s Brown a groundbreaker, celebrates 5 years at Lake Tahoe

Debbie Brown helped start the Tahoe Brewfest.
Mike Peron / Tahoe Daily Tribune

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Debbie Brown and her restaurant and brewery, Cold Water, have been a staple in South Lake Tahoe for 5 years.

Cold Water opened Nov. 21, 2014, and it was a realization of Brown’s dream. She’s lived in Tahoe for 25 years and has worked in the food and beverage industry for most of that time, but she always wanted to own a restaurant of her own.

“I had a vendor that told me I reminded him of the little girl at the end of the diving board, looking over and walking away, looking over and walking away,” Brown said. “It’s not that easy to jump.”

With no partners and no investors, Brown took the plunge and hasn’t looked back since.

Brown credits Cold Water as the start of the beer scene in South Lake.

“Tahoe, because of the seasonality, is one of the toughest places to own and operate a business,” Brown said. “When people saw Cold Water didn’t fail, they felt comfortable investing in South Lake.”

One of Brown’s accomplishments is helping to start the Tahoe Brewfest, something she felt the South Shore was sorely lacking.

Brown recently won the Tahoe Remarkable Women award for Entrepreneur/Business Woman.

And she truly is remarkable, having success as a woman in a mostly male dominated industry.

“When people come in and ask to see the owner, the last thing they expect is a 5-foot blonde, blue eyed girl,” Brown said. “I don’t have a big beard but I probably wear a flannel better than they do.”

Brown hopes to be an inspiration for her daughter and other women that anything is possible.

She said most women in the industry have investors or partners and so Brown takes pride in the fact that she doesn’t have any.

What she does have is a staff that truly loves her. When she accepted her Remarkable Woman Award she had three tables full of staff standing and cheering.

For Brown, that’s what sets Cold Water apart from other breweries in Tahoe, the embodiment of their mission statement, “Great food, great beer, great people.”

“You have to believe in your people, trust in your people, elevate your people and hire right,” Brown said.

Selfishly, she also said that if she has to work seven days a week, she wants to have fun while she’s there.

Cold Water is celebrating their 5-year anniversary Friday, Nov. 15.

While nothing is set in stone, Brown does hope to expand in the future.

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