Editor’s Note: Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.
Arlington resident Joe Maiellano’s mind, however, goes to high-quality juniper berries and botanicals, a strainer and a funnel.
Maiellano founded The HomeMade Gin Kit with his wife, Sarah, and friends Jack and Molly Hubbard last November. The company pre-packages the instruments and ingredients needed to make gin — minus one critical component: vodka — and ships them across the country for $49.95 a box.
Like many startups, the Maiellanos and Hubbards didn’t come together with the idea of shipping out do-it-yourself gin kits. One day, while drinking gin and tonics made from Maiellano’s homemade recipe, Joe and Jack looked at each other decided they wanted to open a distillery together.
It didn’t take long before their research revealed that opening a distillery costs nearly $1 million before a single bottle of spirit is ever produced. The two full-time D.C. professionals had neither the time nor money for that, and the dream almost died then and there.
“Jack said, ‘the recipe is still good,’” Maiellano said. “That’s when we came up with making the kits.”
They ordered Italian glass bottles and all the other components to make homemade gin, and spent a month putting together 250 packages, stacking them “floor to ceiling and wall to wall” in the Maiellanos’ den in their apartment near Potomac Yard.
Once they launched last November, the four entrepreneurs were hoping to sell their 250 kits by Father’s Day, Maiellano said. A month later, they had sold more than 2,500.
“We took vacation days from our day jobs, we brought in family and friends,” he said, “and gave them a kit so they would help us.”
Back then, Maiellano was making trips to the FedEx Office downstairs in his apartment building every day to ship orders coming in on their website. Mere months later, HomeMade Gin Kit is contracting with a storage and shipping facility in Dulles, Va., shipping out truckloads of kits to online retailers like Uncommon Goods and RedEnvelope and negotiating deals with major national retailers.
Through it all, Joe and Jack continued their work as fundraisers for D.C. nonprofits, and Sarah and Molly also kept full-time jobs. For The HomeMade Gin Kit team, the project is one of passion: although the bootstrapped company is profitable, Joe said, all of the profits are being reinvested back into the business for now.
In addition to the kit, HomeMade Gin Kit sells refills of the botanicals and juniper berries for $10 apiece. Maiellano recently perfected a Christmas-themed gin — with a flavor reminiscent of a Christmas tree — that the company will sell. It’s the first step toward expanding HomeMade Gin Kit’s product line.
Maiellano wants to build kits for different spirits, as well. His passion for Absinthe led him to try several different recipes, but he couldn’t find one that wasn’t horribly bitter, he said. A spirits perfectionist, he said it took him 12 different tries to finalize the gin recipe he and his co-founders built the business upon.
“I think it’s the best gin-and-tonic gin there is,” he said. “Not all of my friends are big drinkers, but pretty much everyone I get to try it likes it.”
Different flavors of gin and new homemade spirit kits may be next on the to-do list for the Maiellanos and Hubbards, but there is still one dream left to chase.
“We would still love for this to lead to opening a distillery,” Maiellano said. “Craft distilling is where craft brewing was in the 1980s. We’re hoping to get in on the ground floor of that.”
The state liquor store, at 2940 Columbia Pike, will first open its doors at 10:00 a.m., according to Virginia ABC spokeswoman Jennifer Farinholt. Normal hours of operation will be Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.
“The store measures 3,895 square feet and will carry approximately 1,400 items,” Farinholt told ARLnow.com.
Hope Proposes Cigarette Tax Hike — Arlington’s Del. Patrick Hope (D) is planning to introduce a bill that would increase Virginia’s relatively low cigarette tax. Unlike past years when Hope has proposed a cigarette tax hike only to have it promptly killed by Republicans, Hope is now proposing that revenue from the tax go directly to car tax relief, rather than to anti-smoking programs or Medicaid funding. [WTVR]
Record Profit for Virginia ABC — Virginia’s state-owned ABC liquor stores and restaurant wholesale business saw record sales and a record profit in fiscal year 2011. The Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control says it recorded an all-time high profit of $121 million last fiscal year, amid record demand for wine, liquor and mixers at stores and from restaurants. The state’s top-selling liquor, meanwhile, is Jack Daniels. [Associated Press]
Lime Fresh Now Open in Clarendon — Lime Fresh Mexican Grill officially opened in Clarendon on Monday. The restaurant, at 2900 Wilson Boulevard, is the first D.C. location for the Florida-based chain. Another Lime Fresh location is planned for Pentagon Row. The chain originally got its start in 2004 as a restaurant on Miami’s South Beach. The Clarendon Lime Fresh location will be open from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., seven days a week.
Lyon Park Community Center Renovations — The County Board is expected to consider a use permit in March for planned renovations to the Lyon Park Community Center. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Alex
The Washington Post’s Going Out Guide has today’s scoop that mixologist Todd Thrasher, Northern Virginia’s king of cocktails, will be opening a new bar within the already-announced Eamonn’s: A Dublin Chipper restaurant on Columbia Pike.
According to the Post, the 30-seat bar — named ‘TNT’ — will feature original cocktail creations and a sort of global cocktail “greatest hits” menu. TNT and Eamonn’s is expected to open around the beginning of spring.
Interior construction on Eamonn’s is currently underway. The restaurant and bar will be located at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Barton Street, on the ground floor of the new Penrose Square apartment building.
Following up on his book The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America, Peck has just released “Prohibition in Washington, D.C.: How Dry We Weren’t.” The book chronicles the history of temperance, vice and law enforcement in the Nation’s Capital from about 1917 t0 1934. The book includes dozens of historic images and even contains 11 vintage cocktail recipes.
Peck will be participating in an author talk and book signing at Arlington Central Library (1015 N. Quincy Street) starting at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 9. We asked him to tell us a bit about the role Arlington played in the history of prohibition. Turns out we were the place where D.C. dumped some of its contraband beer.
“As you probably know, Arlington wasn’t heavily settled yet during the era of national Prohibition (1920-1933), though it certainly was growing: the neighborhoods along the streetcar line between Clarendon and Georgetown grew up as leafy suburbs during this period.
Virginia actually started Prohibition earlier than national Prohibition: we went dry in 1916. This closed down all the breweries and distilleries in the state – including the Arlington Brewing Company that was just over the Key Bridge from Georgetown, where the Key Bridge Marriott is now in Rosslyn. Rosslyn at the time was a bit of an industrial zone, as an offshoot from the C&O Canal crossed the river to connect to Alexandria, and there was a rail yard, lumber yard, a Noland Plumbing factory, and of course the brewery. (There’s a great aerial photo of Rosslyn from 1930 in James Goode’s book “Capital Losses”; you can clearly see the Arlington Brewing Co. building, which at the time was producing Cherry Smash, a non-alcohol beverage). Another brewery – the Robert Portner Brewing Company in Alexandria, which was one of the largest breweries in the South, was also closed. Congress declared Washington, DC to be dry on November 1, 1917, and the remaining four breweries in DC all stopped their brewing operations. Only one survived Prohibition: the Christian Heurich Brewing Company, which was where the Kennedy Center now is, and operated until 1956.