WE'VE REPORTED In the spring of this year, talk started brimming of a new business venture in the form of a distillery that could possibly come to downtown Smyrna. The business owners — Mike Rasmussen and Ron Gomes — of Legacy Distilling were in the process of trying to bring start-up organization Legacy Distilling LLC to Commerce Street.
The state of Delaware had recently passed legislation allowing the owners to build the company, sell spirits and offer tastings and tours onsite with the stipulation that the distillery could only produce up to 750,000 gallons a year.
The business owners wanted to come to Smyrna because of the town's good water, proximity to local agriculture, closeness to Route 1 and Route 13, and the town's desire to redevelop.
Once opened, the business will be the first standalone, independently owned and operated distillery in Delaware. Legacy Distilling will work towards a broad offering of unaged and barrel-aged products including gin, vodka, whiskey, brandy and liqueurs.
WHAT'S NEW It's nearing the end of the year and Legacy Distilling finally has a future home, though it's at a different Commerce Street location than previously planned. Rasmussen and Gomes signed a lease last week to make the old Smyrna Theater at 106 W. Commerce St. the location of Legacy Distilling. The building was last used as plumbing and heating supply shop, Slaughter, Inc.
Rasmussen and Gomes will use the first floor of the building, which sits at 6,300 square feet. Of that space, 4,200 square feet will be used for production space and roughly 2,000 square feet for the tastings rom.
"This location was actually our first choice," Gomes said. "In spite of the challenges presented by its condition, the old movie theater is uniquely suited for a distillery. The building size, lot, and location are ideal and will accommodate needed future expansion."
The signing of the lease comes after months of trying to get the location set in stone and while Rasmussen and Gomes are happy to finally have a lease signed, it's just one item checked off from a long list of things to do. One other item checked off the list recently was the town of Smyrna's approval for a distillery to be a permitted use in the Central Commercial District.
Along with the production, tasting and retail portion of the business, the duo's vision is to create a unique space to feature local artists as well as host events and fundraisers.
In the months since it's been formally announced that Legacy Distilling is coming to Smyrna, the business owners have received some great feedback from the residents. They've even been asked about putting in orders and whether or not they'll be hiring.
"We have talked to a number of locals and have even been stopped on the street by residents….we have totally enjoyed those encounters," Gomes said.
WHAT'S NEXT By the end of the year, Rasmussen and Gomes said they expect the building to be bought by their landlord. Then the upgrades to the facility will begin. Major equipment will be ordered in the spring. The business team hopes to incorporate features of the historic building into the upgrade. The duo will also make some landscaping upgrades outside of the building, including planting trees and building a garden with benches on the western side of the building.
Rasmussen and Gomes will apply for their federal permit and then their state permit. They'll also work on their website. Plans are currently to start production in April with a grand opening in May.
Once the building is open, Rasmussen and Gomes hope that the history and story of the old movie house will lend itself to the new business. Some residents have even told Rasmussen and Gomes stories about childhoods spent at the theater.
"It has a great history and story," Rasmussen said. "We hope to help folks remember what it was like when they came here."
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.