Owners, Painted Stave Distilling in Smyrna

Ron Gomes and Mike Rasmussen made history when they opened Painted Stave Distilling in Smyrna, Delaware’s first standalone craft distillery.

Celebrating their second anniversary should be no different.

The pair said they just made available the first legally released whiskey in Delaware in 100 years. They also plan to release another spirit said to have never before been distilled legally in the state: a bourbon.

After aging for 12 months, 160 bottles of Diamond State Bourbon Whiskey will for sale at noon on Saturday, Nov. 14 on a first come, first serve basis, just hours before the anniversary party at 7 p.m.

Rasmussen said the party will feature cake, other refreshments, a cash bar and a silent auction filled with staves painted by artisans of all varieties.

 IF YOU GO

      ♦ WHAT Painted Stave Distilling’s two year anniversary party

      ♦ WHERE 106 W. Commerce St., Smyrna

      ♦ WHEN Saturday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. Diamond State Bourbon Whiskey available for purchase at noon.

      ♦ FEATURES Stave Silent Auction benefit for the Delaware AeroSpace Education Foundation.

What are your backgrounds?

RON: My degree is in physiology and biology. At the core, what’s going on in there [the distillery] is biology; it’s chemistry. We have a laboratory here. So the skill sets transfer very well.

MIKE: I worked in education policy. We weren’t making very much booze there, although we say teachers are some of our best customers now. I was pretty fortunate to work with some educational organizations in Delaware and the state. These days I’m less about wearing a tie to work and more worried about getting covered in filth all day long.

How did you start Painted Stave Distilling?

RON: We still get people that saw us before we broke ground and thought, ‘These guys will never make it happen.’ We started with personal monies, a team of investors and money from the federal government through the Small Business Administration. We refinanced that this year and are now supported by Delaware Federal Credit Union. It’s an expensive proposition, but it’s just wonderful to have so many people to believe in our drive and our dream.

We’re also both very fortunate to have very, very supportive wives. I’m quick to point that out in tours. We won’t always be without a salary. From a business standpoint, we almost broke even last year. We may be on a target to break even this year.

How has Painted Stave Distilling changed in the past two years?

MIKE: We launched with two products at first. Now there’s 13 things we offer when someone comes into the distillery. Pretty much been our plan all along was to add on more available products broadly but also just here at the distillery.

RON: Last year for our first full year in business, we saw 4,000 to 5,000 people come through here. This year we’ll hit 10,000 people for sure.

Tell us how you’ve expanded and what’s in store.

MIKE: We expanded regional distribution and continue to look for expansion opportunities.

RON: Right hand in hand with that, we’ve expanded the number of people we employ. We currently have three part-time staffers and one full-timer, although we ourselves are still not paid. We’ve had people in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania express interest in working with us. We’ve had conversations with people in India. It’s always kind of mind-blowing. Just the other week I got an email from a woman in Scotland who was wondering if we’d be distributing to the UK. We’ve talked with someone there, too.

How does it feel to release spirits previously barred from the state?

RON: It’s weird, to be honest. But it’s fun. When I got my PhD, you just leave this stack [of dissertation papers] with the administrator and that’s it. You just walk away and they say congratulations. There’s no confetti, no balloons, no parents to congratulate you. But this is going to be different.

How do you like owning a business in Smyrna?

RON: Smyrna is in an interesting time right now, its own renaissance if you will. We’d like to continue being a catalyst in that growth. For a company that’s not making any money, about 5 percent of our money goes to our community. The Happiness Project is a good example of something we’d like to have the opportunity to grow. We hosted Smyrna’s Farmers Market, also.

How else do you contribute to the community?

MIKE: The stave auction will benefit the Delaware AeroSpace Education Foundation. We started off with the idea in our business plan that we’d partner with an education group, specifically helping younger girls specialize in math and science. It’s a pretty good fit for what we want to do and certainly they’re doing some great stuff that we’d like the opportunity to participate in.

RON: We both have daughters and statistics show a decline in girls wanting to go into a STEM career after a certain age. Perhaps this will make a difference. We also offer our commission from hosting local artisan works in our gallery to the foundation. Kevin Fleming will be featured in the gallery starting Friday, Dec. 4.