Waxahachie’s first craft distillery is coming to the city from the "backwoods" by the end of the year.
Backwoods Craft Spirits is an American-owned liquor company that produces and sells its own blends and shine of whiskey, rum, tequila and vodka craft drinks. Their best-selling item is a 50-proof Pecan Pie liqueur that was voted Best Pecan Liqueur in 2015 by the Bar Business Magazine.
“That’s our number one item,” owner Mark Weaver expressed. “It tastes exactly like pecan pie in a bottle.”
Weaver has been in the adult beverage business for over 35 years. Weaver said he’s worked for several major companies coast-to-coast, including Coors Brewing Company, Woodchuck Hard Cider and Chatham Imports, Inc.
“It’s been a long road,” Weaver expressed. “You would not believe what it takes to get this done.”
But about 15 years ago, Weaver saw something happen that changed his perspective of the industry – craft beer entered the scene.
According to a 2018 article from “The Atlantic,” the number of brewery establishments in the nation expanded by a factor of six from 2008—16. The number of brewery workers expanded as well, increasing by 120 percent in that same period.
In 2017, approximately 70,000 people were employed in the brewery industry, which is about three times the amount it was 10 years ago, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A similar growth could be seen with liquor distilleries and wineries as well, with both groups seeing a 70 percent growth between 2006—16. The Texas Distilled Spirits Association also reported that 131 liquor permits were issued to distilleries last year, according to KXAN.
In short, Weaver saw the potential for craft liquors to succeed in the same way that craft beer did – and he wanted in on it.
“I saw what craft beers did for the beer industry, and I knew craft spirits were the next explosion,” Weaver remarked. “I knew that 15 years ago. I watched it, looked at it and I said ‘You know what, I can do this.’”
“That’s what got me started into craft spirits,” Weaver continued. “I took my 401K, took my savings, came home and told my wife we were broke now. I resigned from my job as VP. No more six-figure income.”
Weaver started Backwoods Craft Spirits in 2010 and soon found that the risks proved to be worth the rewards as his business grew to distribute to over 20 states and start production plants in Missouri, Dallas and Houston.
“I sell thousands of cases,” Weaver remarked. “I’m sold in Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, New Mexico, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma. Sales is the lifeblood.”
After several years of overseeing other production facilities, Weaver stated he wanted to own one singular production facility – one he managed himself along with his business.
“We started looking about a year ago for locations that were central to major highways – like I35 – yet had a community atmosphere,” Weaver remarked. “I wanted to have a rural-type setting and a place I could move my family to. This is a family business. I own this 100 percent.”
Eventually, Weaver set his sights on a 21,200-square-foot facility in Waxahachie. Weaver explained that the distillery would focus solely on blending and production and will be distributed to warehouses until they would eventually be sold in stores.
He specified that the distillery was not going to be made open to the public so they could focus solely on production and distribution. They would, however, host special events and samplings throughout town to promote their business and products.
“There won’t be one restaurant or bar you can go into that won’t have our stuff by the end of the year,” Weaver expressed. “I can guarantee you.”
The Waxahachie City Council unanimously approved the craft distillery’s specific use permit during its regular meeting this past Monday. Planning director Shon Brooks stated that staff had some initial concerns from the project on how 18-wheeled trucks might potentially block the road on the way to the loading dock.
“I have seen many cars stacked up in both directions,” council member Mary Lou Shipley stated. “When you come around that curve, you don’t have much time to respond. I just think that it’s dangerous.”
Building owner John Sullivan responded by iterating that pickups would be upwards of three times a day, and all of them would be made by appointment only.
Weaver expressed that he looks forward to seeing the distillery in full operation in the future, and he's excited to see the Waxahachie name attached to it.
“All we’ll do is produce there,” Weaver added. “And it will say ‘Made in Waxahachie, TX’ on the bottles. We just happened to be at the right place and the right city at the right time.”
Weaver stated that the distillery hopes to begin spirit production in either May or June. To learn more about Backwoods Craft Spirits, go online at www.backwoodscraftspirits.com.