Evanston’s craft distillery, FEW Spirits, is planning to expand its operations and seeking city funds to do so.
Founded in 2010 by Evanston resident Paul Hletko, the gin and whiskey distillery is asking for a $250,000 loan from the city in order to increase production and meet growing demand, according to city documents.
Evanston’s economic development committee is expected to discuss the request at a meeting Wednesday, Aug. 28, at the Howard Street Police Outpost, 633 Howard St.
FEW is planning to move storage and bottling operations from its current location at 918 Chicago Ave. to a wholesale outlet at 2310 Main St., near Sam’s Club and Marshall’s, and is requesting a $250,000 loan from the city to finance the purchase of another still and bottling equipment, according to city documents.
“As a high growth startup company, FEW does not have the financial history to qualify for loans under the current private lending market,” economic development division manager Johanna Nyden wrote in a memo to the economic development committee. If approved, she said the loan could come from the economic development fund’s business attraction/expansion and investment fund, which has about $484,000 remaining of the $500,000 allocated in fiscal year 2013.
Depending on the feedback FEW receives at Wednesday’s meeting, the distillery may come back with a formal request at the next meeting of the economic development committee. The committee makes a recommendation to the city council, which ultimately would make the decision on funding.
In a letter to the city, FEW Spirits noted that it added markets around the country and in the United Kingdom during 2012, and added shipments to Japan and Australia in 2013.
“The craft distilling industry and market is experiencing enormous growth, not unlike that of the micro brewing industry in its infancy,” the letter said. “We have far more demand than we have product for and far more market expansion opportunities than we can possibly meet.”
FEW Spirits recently hired a new brand manager, a sales director and two additional production staff, and is planning to hire two more marketing staff, according to the letter. One of those positions is a tasting room manager, who would oversee expansion at the tasting room at 918 Chicago Ave.
“This is a big resource for us that is currently being under utilized,” the letter said. “We have 50 plus people walk through the tasting room every week from all over the globe, the plan is to give them a far better experience and increase their numbers.”
With some operations moved out of the tasting room, FEW Spirits hopes to turn it into a major tourist attraction, like bourbon distilleries in Louisville, KY, thereby bringing revenue to other shops and restaurants nearby.
In addition to the tasting room and the wholesale space on Main Street, FEW Spirits is looking for a professional office for its sales and business staff, and additional warehouse and storage space in Evanston, according to the letter.