Even though we tried, it has been REALLY hard to hide something like a distillery coming to a small town like Waconia. Everywhere we went, people that had heard about us had questions. Most of the questions were reasonable, but with nothing set, we had few answers. So we thought we would take a stab at answering some of the questions that have been tossed out at Kellie Sites, the President of the Waconia Chamber of Commerce, over the past 18 months.
WHAT IS A DISTILLERY?
A distillery is a place where grains and fruits and other sources of sugar are legally converted into distilled spirits. A micro-distillery is a distillery operated within the state producing premium, distilled spirits in total quantity not to exceed 40,000 proof gallons a year.
WHAT KIND OF BEER WILL THEY MAKE?
We like beer, but we have no plans to make it. We will only manufacture distilled spirits. There are several breweries planned in and around Waconia, and we bet it will be good beer.
WHAT WILL THEY BE MAKING?
Current plans include “white” spirits including vodka and gin, and barrel-aged “brown” spirits such as whiskey and brandy.
HOW LONG DOES WHISKEY HAVE TO AGE BEFORE YOU CAN DRINK IT?
It depends on what type of whiskey it is, but for sure, you don’t want to drink it until it tastes good. If Bourbon is what you are looking for, it needs to be aged in charred new oak barrels for 2 years or more.
WHERE IS IT?
The distillery will be located at 1320 Mill Lane, on the South side of Highway 5 between downtown Waconia and Waconia High School.
WHY IS IT CALLED J. CARVER?
The story of Jonathan Carver inspired us. Carver was a pioneer and frontiersman, a risk-taker and leader. He was among the first white men to explore areas of Minnesota including what later became Carver County. He was inspired by the unknown. This same spirit that led pioneers like Jonathan Carver is found at the heart of our distillery.
WHY DID THEY CHOOSE WACONIA?
We chose Waconia because most of the owners live in and around Waconia and we are proud of our hometown. (We also like short commutes.) Another key reason is that the Mayor, the City Council, the City Planning Commission and the City Staff were very supportive of our plans. We believe that with the Lake, several wineries and breweries, Waconia is becoming one of the primary tourism destinations in Minnesota. Our distillery is designed to benefit the other businesses in our community.
WHEN WILL IT BE OPEN FOR BUSINESS?
J. Carver is currently under construction and will open in late Summer 2014. Join our email list to stay up-to-date on our progress.
DO THEY KNOW WHAT THEY ARE DOING?
Yes! We have a partner with experience distilling, a partner with experience in the liquor and restaurant businesses, and we have been studying the industry and planning for years. On the other hand, micro-distilling is a new and emerging industry in Minnesota, and one of the scary yet exciting aspects is the unknown. J. Carver has been constructed with flexibility and optionality, in order to foster a sustainable business.
HOW WILL THEY MAKE ANY MONEY?
Our vision is to make distinctive spirits inspired by a tradition of curiosity. Hearkening back to the days of uncharted exploration and wonder - this is J. Carver. We are excited to share these products with customers around the state who will be able to purchase J. Carver spirits from liquor stores and restaurants who want to partner with us. When that happens, our losses should turn to profits. You will know that we are making money when you see Bill Miller and Gina Holman golfing at Island View more than once a week.
CAN I BUY WHAT THEY MAKE?
You betcha. J. Carver spirits will be available in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area. In fact, we strongly recommend that you immediately add a line item to your family budget titled “J. Carver.”
HOW MANY EMPLOYEES WILL THEY HAVE?
Right now, we have five employees. Depending on how the liquor laws in Minnesota evolve, we foresee 10-15 employees within a few years. If we accepted every offer to be our “Chief Taster” for free, we would have 126 employees.
CAN MY SON / DAUGHTER GET A JOB THERE NEXT SUMMER?
At this time, there are no opportunities for seasonal employment, and we don't foresee positions open for the under-21 age group.
WHO OWNS IT?
The owners include Bill Miller, John Zupan, Gregg Groechel, and Tom Kullman. Key employees will also soon be owners of the business.
WILL THERE BE A TASTING ROOM?
Yes. In fact, we are hoping that you will visit our sampling room this year.
CAN WE EAT THERE?
Current laws do not allow for this, but that may change in the future. Stay tuned.
WILL THERE BE ROOM FOR GROUPS?
Yes. We are planning a variety of activities and events that will attract groups to Waconia. One of our hopes is that the distillery draws groups that benefit all Waconia-area businesses.
WHO IS BILL MILLER?
Bill has lived in the Waconia area for 20 years. He has been married to his wife, Lana, for 31 years, has twin 17-year-old sons, and the best dog in the world - Bailey. Bill enjoys travelling, skiing, fishing, and golfing.
IS MATT MARRIED?
Not sure, but he does not act like it. Matt flirts with just about every waitress he sees, but prefers women that like horses and dogs.
WHY IS GINA THE MANAGER?
It has to do with her blood line. With three sisters, her family is all about good cheer and entertaining. Gina, the third in the lineup, grew up with a foundation based on time around the table, sharing conversation and stories of family, friends and tradition. With decades under her belt in the hospitality industry, she could not resist the opportunity to manage the operation.