I’ve been quiet on this blog for a long time. I had thought my focus on blogging would be compatible with my day job and distillery work, but I soon came to find that time and energy were in short supply once the distillery got up and running. Sadly, I have time once again because the distillery is now shut down. Yesterday I submitted our termination of business addendum to the TTB marking the official end of Tualatin Valley Distilling, LLC. in the present term.
I know there are a lot of questions about why we shut down and what’s next, so let me try and address those from my personal perspective as best I can:
Q: So, what happened?
A: This really IS the big one, so I’ll start by saying that it all came down to timing. Our agreement with Big Bottom Distilling was such that we all hoped and expected our respective growth would occur in parallel and there would be a clear point when we’d make the move out of the space, or take over the space as they moved out and up. That didn’t happen as we’d planned for, in that Big Bottom grew at a faster rate than we did, needed their space. After 5 years for us, it was time to accept that our growth was far slower than anticipated and that our gentleman’s agreement with Big Bottom would be honored with our transition to appointment only tasting room hours while our production was shuttered into storage while we searched for a new facility. Unfortunately, we made a critical timing error which resulted in our OLCC permit expiring, thus removing our legal ability to sell or sample spirits. With that realization, we agreed to forego any reapplication process since we don’t yet have any good prospects for a new location. It made sense for us to shut down the business instead, while we continue to re-evaluate our business plan and future strategy.
Q: Can I still buy some of your old stock of spirits?
A: Yes! In the short term, you can still obtain our commercially available spirits (while supplies last) from our 3rd party retailer, Ezra’s at: http://ezras.com/brand/tualatin-valley-distilling
Q: Then Big Bottom didn’t kick you out?
A: No. We talked through a number of scenarios over the past few months and all agreed on the final strategic move for us all. I’ve heard a few rumours circulating already, so let me be very clear about this: there is no animosity, no hard feelings, and not bad blood between us. We’re still all very good friends and continue to speak often, both about business as well as life in general. The decision to leave the space was purely a business choice that made sense for us all. It really is as simple as that. We love Big Bottom Distilling, remaining fans and customers and eagerly look forward to what growth has in store for them!
Q: Ok, what now?
A: Both Corey and I continue to talk through possibilities and strategies for TVD moving forward. While we are currently shuttered and in storage, we have the opportunity to revamp our business plan with a focus on obtaining investment to reboot the brand in the right way. If that is what we choose to do. In the short-term, we’re enjoying our weekends and time back to spend with our families again, while contemplating the next steps. There are still big question marks in our way, but we’re talking through those… Lots of conversations are happening behind the scenes.
Q: Why didn’t you see the growth you needed?
A: That is a huge and complex question. From my own perspective, at the core, I think that our day jobs kept us from being totally devoted and focused at the level we needed to be to ensure TVD was successful. There are only so many hours in the day and since our day jobs were funding the launch of TVD we both had to ensure we didn’t risk those. My lesson learned here is that to launch a brand like TVD takes much more focus and dedication, and can’t be a secondary focus to a day job. This lesson, of course, plays directly in to how we may revamp our business plan and investment model. Beyond that, our low volume put us in a bad position with distributors and a shoestring marketing budget (both time and money) restricted a lot of our potential from the get go as we relied upon word of mouth and social marketing to help build a following. All lessons that will be worked into a rebooted plan and model.
Q: Are you sad? Happy? How are you feeling about all of this?
A: I’ve had my time to mourn the closing privately ever since I saw the writing on the wall. So, having worked through a lot of the pain of closing my first business, I’m ok now. Which may seem quick for a lot of people just now learning about this, but it has been weighing heavily on my mind for quite some time already and I’ve reconciled it all now. I’m sure you all will process it far faster than I did. But, as they say, your first business will always fail.. yet I don’t let the closing deny what we were able to accomplish. I’m quite proud of our various awards and the quality of products we were able to distill and bottle for our customers (as well as ourselves). I think we definitely proved our concept for small craft products and showed the industry what could be done on a very micro scale while incorporating innovation and vision to some very traditional products like Whiskey and Absinthe, not to mention our Usquebaugh!
Well, there you have it. For now, I’m good. While I appreciate all the words of encouragement and condolences, I’m now looking forward to what the future will bring! As they say: “Onwards and upwards…”