What happens when two men lose touch after 24 years and run into each other at a hamburger joint in Charlotte?
Simple, they open up Dragon Moonshine Company.
Chris Wagner and Rick Lavin lived within two miles of one another in Charlotte and did not know it until 2012. They had been car salesmen in upstate New York at a Chevrolet dealer in the 1990s. Lavin says, “We kind of picked up where we left off.”
Since the recession, both had been looking for a new career. Together they brainstormed businesses they could open. They limited their ideas to things that would be recession proof and produce a tangible product. Flipping houses and other real estate ventures were on the table, but another, more interesting idea came to them: Micro-distilleries in California were paving the way to make money through tasting rooms and tours.
“That same year,” Lavin recalls, “the federal government was loosening its death grip on the laws governing distilleries.”
The idea of opening a craft distillery seemed like a viable option for them in Charlotte. Last December they set up shop in Area 15. They designed and built a still and last summer they spent their time researching and developing their products: whiskey and rum.
Owning a craft distillery means partnering with the federal government and following more strict regulations than most other businesses. They are required to provide the government with a key to their shop and a search and seizure can happen at any time without provocation.
Wagner and Lavin are meticulous in their work. They pride themselves on crafting good-tasting rum and whiskey. They received ecstatic responses from their taste tests during R&D. When possible, they source locally and everything is American-made.
They could launch Silver Rum as soon as the end of March. ABC Stores will carry their product on the shelves once all the permits are approved.
Dragon Moonshine will set up tours and tastings in their Area 15 shop. At these tastings, they will be able to sell one bottle of their rum or whiskey per year, per customer. They estimate a 750ml bottle to be in the mid $20 range.
Photos: Vanessa Infanzon