ADA — Hemp gardens and a whiskey distillery in an industrial park?
Ada High School graduates Troy Erickson and Billy Watterson see potential for both ideas in Ada’s Grass Run Industrial Park, located just off state Route 81 about two miles from Ohio Northern University’s campus.
The duo plan to purchase about 10 acres of vacant land at the industrial park for their whiskey and bourbon distillery — State 17 Distillery — which will act as a joint distillery, bar and family restaurant.
Behind the distillery, Erickson and Watterson are planning a separate but related project of greenhouses.
The 3,300-square-foot greenhouse will grow hemp — an ingredient in CBD oil containing less than 0.3% THC — for farmers and dispensaries. But it’s unlikely that the greenhouse will be open to the public, at least at first, as Erickson said hemp production requires a series of strict hygienic and environmental practices.
While Ohio legislators are still finalizing the state’s legal hemp production guidelines, Erickson hopes to have the property’s first hemp greenhouse up and running by the spring of 2020.
“We recognized the growth potential in the hemp industry in this country,” he said, noting that the Grass Run Industrial Park property is large enough to build more greenhouses if demand for Ohio-grown hemp is high.
As for the distillery, construction and permitting alone could take 12 to 18 months. And that doesn’t include the time required to lay bourbon lines.
Becoming an official distillery is an arduous process: to be considered bourbon, Erickson said the liquor must be at least 51% corn and aged for two years. To speed up the timeline, Erickson said the duo plans to open the bar and restaurant before the distillery portion is ready to go.
Watterson already has experience with distilleries, having developed Burnt Church Distillery in Bluffton, South Carolina, near his home in Hilton Head. He and Erickson, who were already in business together, were looking for a way to give back to Ada when they hatched the idea for State 17 Distillery and the hemp greenhouses.
“I’ve lived in Ada my entire life,” Erickson said. “I’ve heard people saying, we need something. A lot of people here go to Wings & Rings, (Buffalo Wild Wings) and Beer Barrel. You travel to Lima, you travel to Findlay. Well, how can we bring some type of atmosphere like that here? … We want to make it an experience and a destination.”
The Ada distillery — whose name pays tribute to Ohio becoming the 17th state to join the Union — will specialize in liquors like flavored whiskeys and vodka as well as bourbon and rye.
The restaurant will be family friendly too, Erickson explained, offering live and outdoor entertainment intended to draw more people to Ada.
Reach Mackenzi Klemann at 567-242-0456.