Spirits heading to Kennewick

By Loretto J. Hulse, Tri-City HeraldOctober 28, 2013 

River Sands Schiro

Paul Schiro, owner of River Sands Distillery, holds an example of a bottle of gin he'll be making at his downtown Kennewick business at 19 W. Canal Drive. He said they also plan to bottle vodka and whiskey.

BOB BRAWDY

Spirits are coming to downtown Kennewick. But they'll be arriving after Halloween.

Paul Schiro of Pasco will be pouring samples of his vodkas, gin and, later, white whiskey, in a few weeks at River Sands Distillery, 19 W. Canal Drive, Kennewick.

He'll sell 750 milliliter bottles of his spirits. But just two per customer, per day; that's the state regulation. Each bottle will cost $30, plus taxes.

Opening a distillery has been a long involved process, he said. And one not helped by the government shutdown earlier this month, he said.

Schiro had to open his business -- dry -- in November 2012.

"You have to have the distillery before you can get a license to make the spirits. I know it's crazy but that's what the state requires," Schiro said.

To keep the doors open, Schiro sold wine and cheese-making kits and other merchandise complimentary to wine, beer and alcoholic spirits. That's being closed out and the gift shop remodeled into a tasting room.

"It'll have a '50s, art deco look. Think, Rat Pack; I'm really into those guys," he said. "I want that 'Wow!' factor when customers first walk in."

He expects to have the first of his handcrafted Kennewick spirits bottled and ready for sale and sampling by mid-November.

Later, he'll add T-shirts, coasters and other merchandise featuring his Kennewick logo.

"My license only allows me to sell merchandise and spirits carrying my logo. That's another state regulation," he said.

Schiro has no intention of competing with the national brands. He said his business is a craft distillery, and the maximum amount of spirits he can produce in a year is limited to 6,500 gallons.

"I won't get even close to that. I'm out to produce a quality product and great service," he said.

In addition to gin and white whisky, Schiro plans to produce a line of flavored vodkas -- cucumber, hot pepper, lime and cranberry.

Schiro spent 42 years in the fast food restaurant business, working up from making french fries at McDonald's in the Sacramento area to area supervisor for Jack in the Box, overseeing seven to 11 restaurants in Eastern Washington and part of Oregon.

"That meant I was on the road a lot, days at a time, living in motel rooms. When I turned 60, I decided I was tired of that. I wanted a change," he said. "When I traveled, I visited distilleries and wineries and it always seemed the people there were enjoying their job. I wanted that too."

That yearning to have his own business led Schiro to Kennewick.

"I really enjoy being in downtown Kennewick. I like the atmosphere, the other store owners. That's why I'm branding my spirits as Kennewick," Schiro said.

They'll be called Kennewick Gin and Kennewick Vodka.

Schiro uses barley -- bought from Washington growers -- to make his spirits. With his present equipment, Schiro can make up to 53 gallons at a time.

The process of turning grain, water and yeast into alcoholic spirits takes several days but unlike wine, doesn't need to be aged.

"All spirits begin as vodka and then get flavored," he said.

Schiro's spirits will be sold in the tasting room and, eventually, anywhere else that's licensed to sell alcoholic spirits.

River Sands Distillery will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

The phone number is 855-400-1974.

Got to www.riversandsdistillery.com. They also are on Facebook and Twitter.

w To submit business news, go to bit.ly/bizformtch.

w Loretto J. Hulse: 582-1513; lhulse@tricityherald.com

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