Lovers of small-batch, locally produced spirits, raise a glass—it looks like Harrisburg will get its first craft distillery after all.
For more than a year, business partners Dan Healy and Brian Myers have been quietly creating a distillery inside the former Smith Paint Building at 1817 N. Cameron St, a couple of blocks south of the state Farm Show Complex. If all goes according to plan, the pair expects to open Midstate Distillery this summer.
“We want to make a product that the people of the greater Harrisburg area will embrace,” said Healy, 32, a Camp Hill resident.
Healy and Myers, 42, bought the building in December 2013 and have been hard at work since transforming the dilapidated, 7,000-square-foot space into a modern distillery and tasting room. They plan to manufacture rum, vodka and moonshine at first, then gin and whiskey.
Healy said they originated the concept two years ago after leaving another manufacturing company co-owned by Myers.
“We left and brainstormed what to do next,” he said. “We had considered brewing, but thought that market seemed more saturated.”
They began touring micro-distilleries, taking distilling classes, working on their business plan and searching for a site. They decided on Cameron Street because of the central location, the proximity to the Farm Show Complex and the existing industrial zone, which allows distilleries to operate by right.
In addition, the building was already fitted with an extensive sprinkler system, which is essential given the potentially volatile process of manufacturing spirits.
This is the second micro-distillery proposed for Harrisburg in recent months. In December, city residents Alan Kennedy-Shaffer and Stanley Gruen attempted to locate a distillery in the historic “Carpets and Draperies” building in Midtown Harrisburg, a location that required a zoning variance. Following a contentious meeting, the city’s Zoning Hearing Board denied their application.
Healy said Midstate Distillery will produce about 20 cases of liquor a week to start, with the ability to ramp up as demand increases. They will serve drinks by the glass, as well as sell bottles, and also would like to distribute to bars in the area. There are no plans to serve food, though they are open to partnering with food vendors.
Healy and Myers hope to open in July, though the timing will depend upon receipt of their state distillery license. They’ve already received their federal Distilled Spirits Permit. They also must complete the interior renovation, which they’re mostly doing themselves.
“The building has required a lot of TLC,” said Healy.
When Midstate Distillery opens, it will be the first distillery in Harrisburg in many decades, perhaps since Prohibition. In recent years, craft distilleries have opened in cities across Pennsylvania, such as Old Republic in York and Thistle Finch in Lancaster.
“We’re very excited,” said Healy. “But we’re also a little nervous because we still have a lot of work ahead of us before we can open.”