We're taking a minute to reflect on our first year. Here's what the guys who have been with us since the beginning had to say about Year One:
Bryan Ness, Mixologist, Ideas Man, Creative, Problem-Solver, With Us From Before the Beginning
My favorite things? 1) The all hands on deck approach, especially in the early months; 2) Everyone having the drive of seeing Copperwing succeed, making sacrifices, and learning something new every day; and 3) Having the St. Louis Park community and neighbors take us in with open arms. I can’t say enough good things about the people who come in. I truly enjoy coming to work each and every time. It’s a creative space that puts an emphasis on providing a quality product and a smile on everyone’s face that walks through the door.
Brian Idelkope, Co-Owner
Best Realization - I love gin (or maybe I just love our gin). Funny how we had had originally fashioned ourselves a gin distillery, but even then I was more into whiskey. As time has gone on I continue to find my way back to gin. My favorite cocktail has become the Martinez or just a simple gin and tonic. Who knew?
Best Surprise - Tim once said, "It's remarkable that our staff keep coming back" - Despite the fact that we opened a quaint cocktail room, well off the beaten path, our staff keep coming to work every day. But not only that, they also come every day with energy, creativity and enthusiasm. We are so lucky to have such a talented group and it's because of them that Copperwing has become my favorite destination.
Best Moment - Our Holiday party was scheduled the same night of the Minneapolis Miracle. There is no way to prove this, but I think the fate of Copperwing Distillery was in the balance that night. I have never been happier to spend time with everyone and celebrate Copperwing. It was the best night by a long shot.
Chris Palmisano, Co-Owner
I'm happy with how enthusiastic our customers are about Vodskey. We took a big leap in deciding to make that an actual product and I'm glad we did. It's a big part of Copperwing's beginnings and the work that originally made Vodskey is a big part of our story. Vodskey represents our humble beginnings, hard word, and resourcefulness. It's great to see other people embrace that.
I wouldn't say this is a surprise, but it has been validating that the people behind Copperwing's spirits and cocktail bar are the best part of Copperwing. Great spirits only get us so far, and that would have been basically no where if not for Tim and company making Copperwing a destination that people want to visit and revisit. Can you imagine if it was just me, Kyle, and Brian behind the bar on any given night? :)
Finally, running a small business -- even in a "fun" industry like ours -- is difficult and consuming work. There's more going on behind the scenes than our customers will probably ever realize. We're lucky to have a team that pulls it all together.
Double finally, I'm surprised in some respects by how many people Copperwing has drawn in. Employees, friends, artists, regulars, and others who contribute to making Copperwing an ever-better place and experience for customers. I'm thinking about Cristina's social media dedication and success, [Bryan] Ness’ zero-to-mixologist-“Ohmygod! Vodskey Old Fashioned is the best cocktail I've ever tried!”, Marie's liqueurs and Brian and Marie's dedication to turning unique drinks at Marquee Mixology every couple of weeks, Tim's many hats from tour guide to drink creator to everyone's favorite bar man, [Chris] Koza’s musician bookings, Kyle's many many early mornings, Keppen’s designer eye that made our space cozy and unique . . . none of these folks would do these things if this wasn't an organization that is worth contributing to and making better.
Tim Burgart, Front of House Manager, Head Mixologist, Jack of All Trade, All-Around Good Guy
This bar program is unlike any I have been a part of. We have had our ups and downs but pulled through every step. The passion from Chris, Brian and Kyle has created a path for all of the staff to follow and feel like they are part of something special. The staff we have is not the usual suspects. Most everyone works this as their second job and could slack off, but no one does. Everyone has such great respect for the system and comes in ready to learn and give every person they see the best experience possible. Our staff is the reason we are who we have become.
Year one has been fun. Every day to come will be an adventure and with this crew you never know what’s around the corner. Hold on and enjoy the ride.
Kyle Kettering, Co-Owner
I love hearing about all of the people that come to our distillery and genuinely enjoy themselves, the space, the people, the drinks, the atmosphere, the whole experience. All of our collective hard work is paying off with each person that comes to our distillery and takes it all in, thinks about where else they've been and how awesome the experience is at Copperwing. I think that is probably the most amazing part, and we get to continue to improve the experience for everyone who hasn't come yet with fun new ideas in the making.
I would say the people that work at Copperwing, including the owners and their families, are what make Copperwing what it is today. Enthusiasm, dedication, eyes on the prize, long hours, little or no pay, time and time again, keeps our business running and growing. As slow as it might seem, we are all making Copperwing grow organically and from within, which is probably the hardest thing to do. I think this will pay off in the long run, since we now know what it takes to create something, show it off, and sell it with little more than our imaginations at work. It would be much easier to spend way more money and have someone else do the work, but then it wouldn't be completely ours. A true DIY company.
I would say that running a distillery full time is much more difficult than I thought it would be. With all of the ideas we've have and all of the best planning possible, the execution is considerably more time-consuming than I ever thought it would be. There really is not enough time in the day, not enough energy one person can muster, or enough patience required to run the facility to its fullest potential. Looking back after a year of production, with a quarter of the time not actually in production, we have achieved some pretty cool things: we developed 8 really tasty products; we figured out how to run a cocktail room; and somehow, without any prior experience, we're keeping the lights on. I'd think any other group in a similar situation would have failed by now and given up, but we persist and we get stronger and smarter by doing it.