Micro-distillery, flea market get zoning approvals

May. 08, 2013 @ 05:49 PM

An Oxford man with a family recipe for whisky that is almost as old as the nation navigated forward from a Henderson zoning board’s split decision in December on his idea to develop a distillery on Williams Street.

The Henderson Zoning Board of Adjustment also approved a special use permit for a Raleigh Road indoor flea market to move with its dozens of vendors to a 42,000 square-foot building at 254 J.P. Taylor Road nearby.

Joseph Goolsby on Tuesday received two unanimous decisions on use and variance requests to start up a micro-distillery at 1034 Williams St., a comeback from a request denial on a narrow margin the first time around.

Goolsby said the decisions on Tuesday are a step forward in a long journey to bring a 10-generation moonshine tradition into the light of legal commerce.

“I am just as happy as I can be,” Goolsby said. “I am looking forward to taking my family recipe and making it legal.”

He had endorsements from police, fire and economic development leaders this time, and through property manager Greg Stevenson, good news that the selected building has a little more space around it than the one considered before.

Henderson Police Chief Keith Sidwell said he checked out the proposed site, and he consulted an ABC enforcement officer who also looked at the plan.

“Everything was perfectly in compliance with the law,” Sidwell said.

Henderson Fire Chief Danny Wilkerson said from a fire safety perspective, if Goolsby keeps sprinkler systems in working order, then there would be greater danger in keeping the Williams Street warehouse structure empty.

“We have no problem with the plan from the fire department standpoint, and we like to see businesses coming in to occupy vacant buildings,” he said.

Goolsby said his distillery would be set up in six sections: distilling, brewing, fermentation, maturation (barrel storage), grain storage and bottling, using “very expensive” equipment that will be very well cared for and protected in keeping with insurance protocols.

“Not only can I bring jobs to the area, but all of my business will be as local as possible,” he said, adding he anticipates up to seven employees working each shift, (up to 20 employees to start with) and products he would be looking to use include local-grown corn.

Stuart Litvin, director of the Henderson-Vance County Economic Development Commission, said Goolsby’s plan fits all criteria for support by governing bodies in the business of getting people working again.

“It will create jobs, it will fill a vacant building, it will increase local tax revenues and it will help a young entrepreneur,” Litvin said. “The water use will also bring revenue to the city.”

Goolsby said he envisions production of some quick-sale vodka and gin products as well as his grandfather’s recipe for honey-corn liquor and a niche-market family brand of whisky that starts with quality brewed beer.

Growing to a full product line, the opportunity to grow more presence on the ABC store shelves, means the hope is there for expansion into more warehouse buildings, hiring more brewery workers that he would like to develop into craftsmen in the trade.

“So much of the industry is computerized,” he said. “No one ever deals directly with the product. I like the idea of having more craftsmen at work here.”

The buildings along Williams Street are too close according to city code requirements for manufacturing and industrial uses. They were built and used before easement requirements became part of the city code.

The zoning board on Tuesday granted a variance on the easement requirements as well as a special use permit for distillery manufacturing.

Goolsby said he has a long road of federal and state approvals before he can start hiring, having about 30 departments of government to deal with.

Jerry Looper received the nod from the zoning board to pack up and move up to 60 vendors from their recent location at 2726 Raleigh Road location over to 254 J.P. Taylor Road, to a 42,000 square-foot building to continue the Henderson tradition of a large indoor flea market.

Looper assured board members that everything was set and ready for operations to open up.

“There is electricity hooked up now,” he said, “and the sprinkler system is operational.”

Most of the potential vendors and supporters were crowded in Henderson Council chambers at city hall to hear the decision, and they let out a cheer when the decision was announced.

Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.