Plans for Ghost Coast Distillery — Savannah’s first since before the prohibition era — are moving along on schedule, according to Tony Bagnulo, head of marketing and sales for the company.
The distillery at 641 Indian St. is in the former Frozen Paradise nightclub and will share the neighborhood with two micro-breweries, Service Brewing and Southbound Brewery.
“It’s what we think will be a pretty substantial face-lift to that part of downtown,” Bagnulo told the Savannah Economic and Development Authority on Tuesday.
“... A big part of what we want to do with our product and our brand is bring the city of Savannah to life. There aren’t a lot of brands that capture Savannah, but we think that we’re going to do that because we’re relevant to locals, first and foremost, but the tourist population that’s looking to come here and learn a little about Savannah.”
Bagnulo said revenue generation will be a two-pronged approach, starting with tour sales and then expanding to the wholesale market in coming years, including north and central Florida in 2017 and North Carolina and south Florida in 2018. Beyond that, there are plans for expansion in northern states and Washington D.C.
“Obviously, Savannah will be our primary market, but we will expanded around the Southeast... We want to maintain controlled growth in the wholesale environment about the Southeast,” he said.
The distillery was granted rehabilitation and alteration in December, and internal demolition on the 17,000-square-foot building wrapped up earlier this year, Bagnulo said. Specs of the building include a 5,000-square-foot tasting room and 10,000-square-foot aging and distilling area.
“We’ll be a 17,000-square-foot facility that will be the biggest craft distillery definitely in the state of Georgia and most likely in the Southeast,” he said.
They expect to make about 16,000 cases of varying product. They’ll start immediately with whiskey to get the aging process underway but will also produce vodka because it doesn’t require aging.
Bagnulo along with general manager Chris Sywassink said they hope to have the doors open for tours in late summer or fall.
They expect about 62,500 visitors during the first year and expect that number to increase steadily each year.
“We are quite excited. Progress is being made, and every day we’re moving closer and closer to that coveted day of opening the doors,” Sywassink said.
With the demolition and permitting process behind them, they’re now focused on structural and production elements before moving to phase III of the project in late summer.
Construction plans include two large storefront windows that will shine light on large copper stills and other equipment, removing a small patio area, replacing doors and windows and new paint and signs.
“Construction is always a challenge when putting something of this nature together, so we’re trying to keep our expectations to a controllable level and determine when we’re ready to open,” Sywassink said. “We don’t want to open before we’re ready and lose opportunity.”
The result is expected to be a $6 million investment that will generate 18 full-time jobs.
For more information on Ghost Coast Distillery, go to www.facebook.com/ghostcoastdistillery