Donald Snyder, President, Whiskey Systems Online
Released in 1989, Kevin Costner’s character in the movie “Field of Dreams” plows his cornfield to build a baseball field motivated by one of the most iconic movie lines of all time; “If you build it, he will come.”
Investing all his family’s savings into the infrastructure, he built something that not only had a special meaning to his community but drew in people from all over.
The parallels to the growing craft distilling industry are striking. Aspiring distillers share the passion for building something special and making an investment in their community that will draw a crowd. After the corn is plowed and the lights installed, here are some ways craft distillers can bring in foot traffic.
Every state has different regulations on what a craft distillery can sell to consumers, including limits on bottle sales, cocktails, samples, and food offerings. Those distillers that can sell cocktails have an advantage as people can come in for a drink or take advantage of happy hour specials. However, just having a welcoming and well-decorated bar does not guarantee boots in the door.
Richard Stabile, owner of Long Island Spirits in Baiting Hollow, New York has a craft distillery with a tasting room bar off the Long Island Expressway. Part of his success bringing in customers is maintaining a vibrant social media presence and encouraging people to try a rotating list of craft cocktails.
“People come out to see the local wine trail and stop at the distillery for a cocktail,” said Stabile. “Being listed on the expressway signs as an attraction is a big benefit. We get to show customers how to use our spirits in their own craft cocktails at home which encourages them to pick up a bottle while enjoying a drink.”
Some states don’t allow cocktails or mixed drinks on site, which means distilleries need to be creative on how to bring in foot traffic. Paul Tomaszewski, owner of MB Roland Distillery in Pembroke, Kentucky, hosts regular events to bring in a crowd and stay connected with the community. “Pickin’ on the Porch,” combines live music, drinks, and food trucks and is one of the most popular events in the area, drawing 1,500 to 2,500 people per night.
Another big draw to the distillery is “Vintage, Crafts & Cocktails” where the distillery hosts a variety of vendors from jewelry makers to craft artists
that embody the artisan spirit. “The Vintage, Craft & Cocktail event brings in people who normally wouldn’t seek out a distillery, and helps build strong relationships with the community,” said Tomaszewski.