Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in food and beverage but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with James Quade, Co-Owner of Antler Run Distilling, located in Keuka Park, NY, USA.
What's your business, and who are your customers?
Antler Run Distilling is a NY farm distillery overlooking Keuka Lake. We are a father (Doug) and son (James) owned and operated business. Our passion is producing Bourbons and Whiskeys. Our customers come to this area to play on the Finger Lakes and tour the wine, brewery, and distillery trails.
Tell us about yourself
We got started in this business because of a hobby of home-brewing beer and my ambition to be an entrepreneur. Both my dad and I were huge bourbon fans but never thought about making it until I created a business plan to open a brewery. I had a lot of issues with opening a brewery. My dad suggested that I look at distilling spirits. We talked about distilling spirits so much that my mom finally kicked us out of the house and said go buy a still already. And that was the start of Antler Run Distilling.
We started distilling in our barn on a small 8-gallon still to running a tasting room and producing our spirits from two 150-gallon stills. We have over 60 barrels of bourbon, rye, and whiskey currently aging at our distillery. We are now harvesting barrels every month of our Antler Run Bourbon and Howling Dog Bourbon!
We take pride in creating a truly handcrafted product. We have no automation in any of our processes. We use 100% local grain to create our products. We not only want to create a successful business and brand, but we also want to create some of the best bourbons ever.
What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?
This is a tough question because we have accomplished so much since opening in 2019. But, I think at the moment, it would be successfully navigating through the pandemic. It took our original plans and threw them out the window after only operating for eight months. We are now coming to a fast-approaching fourth anniversary! We have signed on with a local distributor and are looking at entering 30 to 40 new outlets and are about to launch direct-to-consumer shipping to 30+ states.
What's one of the hardest things that comes with being a business owner?
Every day there is a new challenge. It is just my dad and me, and sometimes we rope our wives into helping us out, but in the end, nothing ever moves forward unless we are the ones out there getting our product in front of new customers. The business environment is always changing, and being able to adapt quickly and always trying to see what's coming before we are behind the 8 ball.
In the first 8 months, we entered the pandemic, and now that that is finally wrapping up, we are facing a possible recession or worse. There is an American white oak shortage which has made it very difficult to get barrels to age bourbon in. We lucked out this year by finding stave wood that was seasoned for five years here in the Finger Lakes, but it looks like next year will be a real challenge in getting barrels to age bourbon in. It is nothing we can't handle it just keeps you always on your toes. These are the types of challenges that all business owners face. You learn to love the challenges and take a step back and see how far you have come.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?
- Know the business inside and out.
- You will fail more than you succeed, and you just need to keep pushing forward.
- Step back and enjoy what you create. Sometimes you get bogged down in big difficult challenges. But you always need to remember to step back and look at what you have created and enjoy it!
Where can people find you and your business?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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