Woman-owned distillery opens soon
By C. Kelly
The Michigan Citizen
Our/Detroit, a woman-owned vodka distillery, is slated to open this summer in Southwest Detroit. Located inside an old liquor store, the micro-distillery will be a meeting space for the community.
“This will give me a space to prove businesses can invigorate communities in unexpected ways,” says Brandi Keeler, 25, one of Our/Detroit’s partners.
“I really want to prove to Detroit, myself and partners that everyone has the capacity to take a model and do some work in amazing ways people haven’t seen before.”
The project is the brainchild of Asa Caap, Global Director and CEO of Our/Vodka, which is a subsidiary of the French wine and spirits maker Pernod Ricard. Caap recognized an opportunity to create vodka brands that are both global and local. Beginning a distillery in Berlin, she wanted to eventually grow to the United States. She chose Detroit.
“The U.S. was a natural second step after Berlin and even though we like New York and Los Angeles it didn’t feel right to start there,” says Caap. “We traveled around and fell in love with Detroit and the entrepreneurial spirit among Detroiters and decided to go for it. A lot of people have tried to convince us not to, but we really believe in Detroit and we want it to be our first U.S. city.”
So Caap met with Keeler, Sara Aldridge and Kate Bordine and decided to partner for Our/Detroit. Aldrige and Keeler met earlier while being documented in “A Girl’s Guide to Detroit,” a viral video showcasing how young women are engaging the city.
All operations, sales and marketing for the vodka will be managed locally and Our/Detroit will be sold to local bars, restaurants and retailers.
“For me, I am excited about this being a project that is primarily women running their own business — especially as a woman of color,” says Aldridge, 34. Aldridge has worked at the Greening of Detroit and Mercury Bar as a manager. She is a graduate of Detroit High School for Fine and the Performing Arts.
“It is about creating jobs, a tax base and rehabbing an old building and giving it a new life.” says Kate Bordine, 32, who is also the executive director of Ponyride, a space that provides inexpensive rents for artists and social entrepreneurs. Bordine is originally from Ohio.
“Our/Detroit is about bringing three strong women together to try and leverage this opportunity and be a force for good.”
Bordine sees the space as a 40-seat tasting room that incorporates the projects of other local businesses such as McClure’s pickle brand.
The women will also develop their own vodka blends. Think Michigan cherries or other flavors unique to the area.
The Our/Detroit project is “probably the biggest risk I have ever taken in my life,” says Keeler, a graduate of Detroit’s Renaissance High School, who looks forward to owning her first business.
“(Detroiters) aren’t keen on big companies coming in and making money off us, so Pernod Ricard is interested in people who want to invest in Detroit,” said Keeler.
“Our/Detroit isn’t me, Kate and Sara, but it is ours. The city makes the product. The city puts the flavor in.”
“A Girl’s Guide to Detroit:” http://vimeo.com/67615399
For more information on Our/Detroit, visit: http://ourvodka.com/ourdetroit/
Brandi Keeler’s poem for Our/Detroit
OUR city is made of passion.
Not the usual kind that looks good
on coffee tables and newspapers.
OUR’s is the passion that smiles.
After a long day of work
with grit in its teeth,
dirt in its corners,
knowing it did all it could.
Our soul is not a shadow.
It’s clear as day.
Well, mostly clear
with a tiny bit of chrome.
There’s nothing smooth about Detroit.
But our purity is unquestionable.
It’s made of work,
We are what makes OUR city
And this is