Perhaps you have been one of the many to press your nose against the big glass windows at Harmony Spirits, gazing at the elephant-size still inside, admiring its mirrored copper gleam. And maybe that gaze got you wondering, impatiently, when this new micro-distiller would officially open its doors. Well, wait and wonder no more! Harmony Spirits is ready. Though Jim Simpson, Andy Craig, and Larry Tammel have been making whiskey, vodka, and rum for awhile, and though their tasting room has already served weekend crowds for the last month or so, July 4th is the official grand opening of Harmony Spirits. So make your plans to come celebrate all that this talented trio has created.
Favorites so far include Blackberry Vodka Mojitos, Harmony Electric Lemonade, or the refreshing “Stuart’s” named for Harmony’s own Stuart Morem. “If we have a story at all,” Craig says, “it’s just that we’re a full circle, local operation.”
“We want to buy local, stay local, and sell everywhere,” adds Simpson, “and we want to make a really good product.” After 40 years combined experience, Simpson, Craig and Tammel consider themselves connoisseurs of quality spirits. “The real learning has been the paperwork and government processes,” the partners say. “We laugh about the company that calls themselves Long Road Distilling. We know exactly where that came from!” Craig is quick to share that Harmony Spirits has not been alone in waiting for approvals. “We’re luckier than the brewers who were trying to get their specialty beer labels approved. Our product doesn’t go bad or lose its prime season with the delay.” It’s just taken a lot longer than any of the three could have anticipated.
“It’s all been fun though,” Simpson says. “There’s something new every day. We hardly have time to get paperwork done, so many people are stopping by.” Harmony Spirits has been built with local materials and local tradespeople – lumber from Hahn Lumber, a lot of things from Kingsley Mercantile and through them, Canton Heating and Cooling. Their local builder was Andy Yoder with Niagara Builders. Denny Barnes of Stateline ICF did concrete. Morem Electric, Torgerson-Ostby Floor Coverings and Stone, and Jade Rindels of DJC Construction for interior work, Ron Scheevel for earth moving, and others were also integral to the project.
“Most of the people who have done work or sold supplies to us are also shareholders – we have 50 shareholders including the partners so local people have a big stake in our success. We’re not here to be millionaires. We just want to make a living close to home and pay back our shareholders, keep it simple, and do what we enjoy,” says Simpson. Local retailers, tradespeople, and restaurateurs who have been supportive and involved are all part of what makes this place special.
The grain that Harmony Spirits is using comes from the farm Andy Craig operates between Harmony and Preston. It’s milled right there on the farm. Tasting room décor is mostly repurposed corn crib also from the farm. The crib was built in the ‘60s from 100-year-old trees raw cut by Darrel Ray near Forestville. Andy, his wife Tara, and his father-in-law John Kristoff have cleaned the wood, planed it, oiled it, and built it into the room. The walls and the tasting counter are all handmade, authentic corn crib. The wood is beautiful — as warm and as local as the owners.
Come Thursday, July 4th, for the grand opening Ribbon Cutting Ceremony at 10 a.m. and also witness the unveiling of a new Harmony Spirits sign. It’s a work of art,” says Tammel of the steel sculpture by a Rochester artist. Then settle in to enjoy a Classic Car Show from 10:30-2:30 with a judged competition in the parking lot. When you get hungry, ask for a menu from a local eating establishment. You can get Estelle’s popular pork nuggets, rice bowls, or brisket delivered to your tasting room table in about 15 minutes. Other local eateries will also deliver to Harmony Spirits including On the Crunchy Side, the Falcon’s Nest, and BReaKeRs or stop in at those establishments to pick up your favorite foods. It’s only a short walk from any of them to 40 First Ave NW where you can dine while enjoying your choice of creative cocktails at Harmony Spirits.
The Summer Tasting Menu is posted on the Harmony Spirits’ website www.harmonyspirits.net, though it may be a slightly reduced menu on the 4th for the busy grand opening. Bottles of whiskey, bourbon, and rum will all be available for sale on site. And while visiting, look for the big photo books that document what Tara Craig calls “Harmony Spirits’ History in the Making.” Volumes 1 to 3½ are available in the tasting room, documenting the entire journey from dream to reality. There is more history soon to be made. This is just the beginning and you can be a part of it.