A new distillery is in the works in Blytheville, set to open this fall at 118 S. Broadway St. in the former Franklin's Printing Press downtown.
The planned Franklin's Distillery is the brainchild of Andrew Carrington, president of Delta Cartage trucking company in Blytheville, and Matt Perrin, school operations leader at KIPP Delta Public Schools in Helena-West Helena.
Carrington told Arkansas Business the two intend to make their whiskey in the evenings and on weekends while retaining day jobs. The distillery will also offer tours on Saturdays.
Whiskey won't be the first drink served to patrons. While that liquor is being aged for two years, Franklin's Distillery will be serving beer. He said the processes for making both are similar enough for the business model to work.
However, whiskey in various stages of the aging process will be available for samples when the distillery opens.
Carrington and Perrin, along with distillery employee Blake Williams, intend to use small batch stills and five-gallon barrels because those allow for more experimentation.
Their plan is to source grain from Blythville. Their whiskey will be distilled twice and be a classic American-style bourbon whiskey with hints of wheat and rye. Carrington's wife's family owns a local farm that will help supply grain for the distillery's products.
Most of the presses have been removed from the building, which is being renovated now, but a few will remain to serve as decor.
Carrington said the distillery is part of his and his wife Erin's plan to revitalize the city's historic downtown.
Over the last seven years, the couple has acquired about 40% of the buildings downtown and re-opened the iconic That Bookstore in November. The store was known for its then-owner’s support of author John Grisham while he was writing his first novels.
The Carringtons renamed it Blytheville Book Co., adding beer, wine, a coffee bar, toys and records to the store's offerings.
"We're using a combination of food and art to help redefine the cultural landscape of our downtown," Carrington said. "And so things like distilleries are great for micro tourism. We were thinking about things, what is something that's going to get you off the highway?"
Blytheville is about an hour north of Memphis and the couple's goal is to net people traveling to and from there: micro-tourists who could also enjoy small downtown businesses of the type that don't compete with Walmart, including restaurants and quality-of-life ventures like a yoga studio. Plans include upstairs apartments as well.
Carrington said the distillery will have access to an "underserved" consumer population of 75,000-100,000. He feels that it, along with the planned Cold War Museum at the nearby Air Force Base, are "a tipping point" for the revitalization effort.
(Corrections: A previous version of this article stated that the Blytheville distillery will be the second in Arkansas and that there is a two year aging requirement for a liquor to be called a whiskey. There is no such requirement, and there are 11 federally licensed distilleries in the state. Also, a Franklin's Distillery owner has been contacted by Arkansas Business to clarify additional details a reliable source has claimed are inaccurate. Those details are that the distillery has received state approval but federal approval is pending, that the owners made whiskey for fun before deciding to open a distillery, and that small, personalized barrels will be available for pre-purchase upon opening. These details have been removed from this story pending a follow-up interview with the owner.)