Michelle Hobbs was looking for a place where she could easily unload semi-trucks for her pet food business in Cincinnati, but instead, she started at a distillery.
“My business grew, and I was having trouble unloading semi-trucks, and I really needed documentation, but I couldn’t buy anything in my neighborhood,” she says.
So, being the creative woman that she is, Hobbs started checking out this website in her county, which listed foreclosed properties. She found a nice place in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood that is $32,000 in arrears, but she hasn’t been hit with a tax bill yet. Hobbs walks by the property and can’t figure out why it hasn’t been taken. Not only did it have loading docks, it also had a parking lot and was a beautiful historic property that could be used in many ways.
Hobbs contacted the bank and worked with her attorney to buy the property, which was valued at more than $1.4 million, for just $225,000, and that was in 2013. “It belonged to a unicorn,” she says.
Once she bought it, big developers tried to buy it at low-ball prices, but she didn’t budge. And instead of using it for installation documents, she decided to turn it into a director, bar and concert venue. “All these people are saying, ‘That’s great, Michelle, how much do you want for this property?’ They beat me while touching my head,” she said.
So Knox Joseph Distillery in He was born in 2018. The pandemic, along with financial delays, delayed the distillery’s actual opening until 2022, but since she worked with another distillery to make and age the bourbon, Knox commissioned Joseph Bourbon to make it. Selling when she opens her doors.
The distillery and bourbon are named for one of her twin sons. The other, White Jack, gave its name to her gin, and her daughter inspired My Daughter’s Pearl Vodka.
Hobbs actually opened the director at the right place. The Over-the-Rhine neighborhood is now home to a professional soccer stadium just down the road from Knox Joseph, and a lot of growth and innovation is happening. “There’s been a lot of success happening now,” she says.
“The warehouse fits perfectly,” said Hobbs, the first woman to open a distillery in Ohio. “People say, ‘Oh, ma’am, Michelle, you read the future,’ and that’s not right, but it’s nice to be where things are happening.
“We’re still building the business, and we’re still getting the word out,” she says. “We’re expanding events, and we hope to expand them this summer. We have 300 events planned this year, compared to 80 in our first year in business.”
As far as shipping documents go, Hobbs bought a small building with documents a few blocks away from her distillery, her pet food business. She’s also aging bourbon in the Rick House next door to her distillery. “I’m really excited about what the future holds,” she said.
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