October 2013 turned out to be Gene Marra’s month.
“We’ve changed the laws in this state to encourage small breweries and distilleries,” said Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, who helped Marra cut through red tape at the State Liquor Authority when the agency was reviewing his license application. “The new distilleries we are seeing help us to promote New York agricultural products. This is a perfect example of why it was important to change those laws.”
The Cooperstown Distillery, the senator noted, will also augment what he called “the renaissance taking place on Railroad Avenue.”
The distillery occupies a storage building that had sat vacant for much of the past few years. Marra and a coterie of carpenters, electricians and plumbers have been sprucing it up over the past several months, turning it both into a retail shop and a place where visitors can sample what he likes to call his “lineup” of merchandise.
Running a micro-distillery can turn out to be much more work than an imaginative entrepreneur anticipates, said Cheryl Lins, who has operated one called Delaware Phoenix in Walton since 2009. Her specialty products are various varieties of absinthe, which are stocked in some local liquor stores as well as some in New York City and are also sold on the internet.
“I didn’t know how difficult it would be start a distillery,” said Lins, a former computer programmer who recalled the initial frustrations she had in dealing with the state bureaucracy. After her license was finally approved and she began turning out bottles of absinthe, she found that her product pleased the palate of enough tasters that she stuck with it.
As for Marra, Lins said she welcomes having a new player on the field.
“Everybody makes their own unique, different things,” she said. “My production is so small that it is really no issue for me when another distillery comes along.”