BRISTOL, Tenn. — The Bianchi family — including co-owners Joe and Nick — local politicians and members of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce scooped corn into a whiskey barrel Tuesday to commemorate the groundbreaking for Lost State Distilling.
“This is a major milestone for us,” Joe Bianchi said. “We’re getting out of the demolition phase, and this is kind of a kickoff to starting the construction phase. We’re hoping the construction phase goes quick, but everything takes time.”
The Bianchis purchased the old Bristol and Supply Co. building at 200 State St. from the city of Bristol, Tennessee, in April for $375,000. The family searched for more than a year and visited locations in Johnson City and Kingsport before finally deciding to locate their business in Bristol.
Lost State will produce small batch gin, rum and Tennessee whiskey.
Renovation of the building will take place in phases starting with the 13,000-square-foot first floor. The first phase will include a tasting room, production area, retail area and event space. Some of the building will also be used for storage.
As revenue starts coming in, the family will renovate the remaining two floors to complement the distillery, although there are currently no specific plans.
Nick Bianchi said the family decided to go into the distilling business after discussing the idea with his brother-in-law, who owns a brewery in Virginia.
“We sat around talking, and I was like, ‘Man, it’d be awesome to have my own spirit brand,’” he said. “So we talked about that and then one day he was like, ‘We need to start a distillery.' And I said OK.’”
The father and son traveled to Lexington, Kentucky, to attend Moonshine University to understand how to make liquor. They learned about the entire distilling process, including mashing, distilling, marketing and starting the business.
Finishing construction of the building could take some time. Nick Bianchi said they are hoping to push everything as quickly as possible, but the building needs a lot of work. They are hoping to open in the next few months.
Once Lost State Distillery opens, the plan is to start selling spirits around the Tri-Cities. When they are established, they hope to expand to Virginia and beyond.
Beth Rhinehart, president and CEO of the Bristol Chamber of Commerce, said the impact of the business on downtown will be “incredible. You’ve got a building that has been sitting here vacant for several years, and you have a business that’s going to come in and invest in it in multi layers, not just the distillery part of it. … We have a huge tourism base here, and this just adds to that.”
"This is a major milestone for us. We’re getting out of the demolition phase, and this is kind of a kickoff to starting the construction phase. We’re hoping the construction phase goes quick, but everything takes time.”
— Joe Bianchi,
co-owner of Lost State Distilling