At J. Carver Distillery, we put together a team as carefully as we choose our grains and fruits. Our diverse backgrounds and perspectives complement and challenge each other. As we grow, so does our team, yet each share the untamed heart and spirit of discovery of our forebear.
Bill Miller is the founder who envisioned this Midwest-proud distillery after raising his family and being involved in the Carver county community for almost 30 years. With his brother, Matt, a successful distiller from the family’s home state of New York, the two often reminisced about the extraordinary hospitality they learned while growing up in a large Italian family in their parent’s welcoming home. Over a glass of vodka, the two forged the idea of a distillery that produced beautiful spirits from a commitment to uncompromised craft and a healthy skepticism for the status quo. Sustainability, local inputs, and environmental stewardship were unwavering principles. With Bill at the helm, the J. Carver Distillery concept was born in 2012. Bill keeps us focused on the long term, demanding quality and eschewing short-term trends and the pressure of global brands. His commitment to the community is deep, and he and his wife Lana are famous for melding together old friends and newcomers alike over a cocktail in the hospitality of their home.
Now Bill knew Gina Holman, and Gina Holman knew the liquor business. More important, she was raised with a similar passion for hospitality. She jumped at the chance to be a founder and partner of what became J. Carver Distillery. Gina has over 30 years in the hospitality industry, and is a certified ISG Sommelier. She has managed a large liquor store, a large restaurant, and a large family. Gina is often in the public eye teaching cocktail classes and sharing her passion for J. Carver spirits and craft cocktails on local TV and radio. She is very active, and is a well-known fixture of every community she touches. Gina is an intrepid explorer, always curious about the best way to coax the best from our local inputs, always thinking about the next great flavor profile. Gina can often be found with her beloved test still, driven to create another extraordinary J. Carver spirit.
Meanwhile, while seeking some help learning about boilers, Bill discovered that Dan Niesen, an old friend right in Waconia, was a home brewer and spent vacation time touring distilleries in Kentucky and Tennessee. Offered the opportunity, Dan took it and we are glad he did. It not Not take long to prove that the combination of his mechanical skills, curiosity and some discriminating taste buds made for one talented distiller.
Maureen Mara came to J. Carver in 2015, originally to help out with J. Carver’s new cocktail room. Mo’s background is in brand management and marketing, so she lends a consumer focus to our mix. She balances out her corporate tendencies with her family and interests in the creative world as an improvisational musician and cook. Mo knows that beautiful libations go hand in hand with beautiful music and food, so she’s a kindred spirit who shares our passion for hospitality and new creations. Like all of us at J. Carver, Mo wears a few hats, including directing our cocktail room and events businesses, and collaborating on our branding, marketing and media efforts.
Beth Aschinger joined to keep J. Carver on track and in line. She, too has a passion for hospitality, and she also understands how to make sure that all administrative tasks are complete, and that the authorities get their stacks of paperwork when they need them. Beth has the heart of a lion when it comes to illuminating the intricacies and nuances of all the rules and regulations that go with running a distillery.
Gregg Groechel has been a business partner with Bill for over 20 years. He loves to learn, whether about business or life, and thrives on learning from both success and failure. He’s an even-keeled collaborator who values disparate points of view and brings a forward-looking view to our business discussions. Gregg is a lifelong Midwesterner with a 33+ year commitment to Minnesota. On the weekends if he’s not spending time with his family in the outdoors, you’ll often find him in your favorite liquor store offering samples of J. Carver spirits or giving tours in the cocktail room.
Founding partner and jack-of-all trades, John Zupan is another well-known local resident. "Zup" is the logistics expert who manages the J. Carver supply chain.
Tom Kullman lives in Waconia as well. He is a businessman that knows a thing or two about flavors and is a great sounding board when we are talking about product development.