Vana Dainty sat down with Kevin Lloyd to help him coordinate the final details of the grand opening for his Bellefonte distillery in two weeks.
Dainty, the borough’s Keystone Community development coordinator, said the Match Factory distillery, named Big Spring Spirits, will be good for the borough.
“Kevin has been a delight to work with, and this should really be a great part of Bellefonte that brings in new tourists and a part of the turning point for our economy,” Dainty said. “It’s different than anything else in Centre County.”
Lloyd said he has seen the value of a helping hand not only from Dainty, but from dozens of others as he opens his new business.
He has had family and friends support him throughout his new venture — from his daughters who bottle vodka to friends from the distillery industry who have allowed him to pick their brains.
Lloyd said it’s nothing like his previous business, Exygen Research, a company he co-owned that provided analytical research to the pharmaceutical industry.
“When I worked with the pharmaceutical industry, confidentiality was of utmost importance,” Lloyd said. “In the distillery industry, everyone is willing to lend a hand. Everyone realizes that we all started out small and got ideas and help from others, so we always offer a hand. I’ll do the same thing for the next guy.”
Lloyd said he’s gotten most of his help from Walter Catton, who co-owns Coppercraft Distillery in Holland, Mich. They met at the 2013 American Distilling Institute’s 10th Anniversary Spirits Conference in Denver.
“It’s an industry of relationships, and we definitely subscribe to the idea that the rising tide raises all ships,” Catton said. “The more I got to know Kevin and realized the depth of his questions, I knew he was passionate about this. They were questions that you seek answers for from a trusted adviser, and there’s no way I would have invested the time I did with him if his passion wasn’t readily visible. There were a lot of times he came out to Michigan from two days to a week to learn what I did firsthand.”
Help from others got Big Spring Spirits off the ground, but the distillery has faced challenges during its soft opening.
Although the distillery is producing vodka now, it won’t have rum and white whiskey until mid-August.
About a dozen more drinks, including gin and Bourbon Cream, will be added by the end of August.
“I think it’s just like any business where we are working out some kinks for different things,” Lloyd said. “Our soft opening has been a way to get some customers in so we can task ourselves and our system, and our teamwork has been tremendous.”
Lucy Rogers, the bar manager, said they’ve made a few tweaks to get ready for the grand opening.
“You open with an idea of the way things will work, and then you change a few things that you realize will work better,” Rogers said. “A lot of us have worked together before, so we’ve all had a great attitude getting opened.”
The distillery’s grand opening will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Aug. 9. Lloyd said it will be a community event with three local bands playing in Talleyrand Park and family dining outside.
“I want us to be a part of the community right away,” Lloyd said.
“For our grand opening we wanted to have a setup outside for families, because the people of Bellefonte have been tremendous. A lot of people are happy we’re located in Bellefonte, and we want to be a part of the community as much as we can.”