Hello to all,
I am the Executive Director of Main Street Mason City, the Downtown Development organization of Mason City, Iowa. I came to these forums because we are redeveloping our downtown, and something that continually comes up that people would like to see is a Brewery or a Distillery. I am a certified beer server and have been following the beer, wine and spirits industry for a long time and know that two breweries within 50 miles of here is plenty, and that a new brewpub is not the best option. However, there is a strong market for craft distilled spirits and I think that is a fantastic option for Mason City. I'd like to lay out some of the reasons I think Mason City right now is a great place to open a distilling operation:
Location: Mason City is halfway between Des Moines, IA and Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN (about 2 hours either way) right along I-35. We are also located near I-90 and The Avenue of The Saints making distribution of your product to great markets a breeze. Chicago, Ohmaha, St. Louis and Kansas City are all less than a days drive as well. Right next to Mason City is Clear Lake, one of Iowa's premier vacation spots and the location of many multi-million dollar vacation homes (and the people who own them). Mason City is already a tourist attraction, home of Meridith Wilson and the inspiration for "The Music Man" and the highest concentration of Prairie Style Architecture outside of Oak Park, IL, and only minutes from Diamond Joe Casino, a distillery that people could travel to and tour would be another jewel for Mason City, while the other tourist attractions would make the job all the easier for the Distillery.
There are no other distillers in the area, but brands like Templeton Rye, Cedar Ridge and Mississippi River Distilling all do very well because they are "local" despite all being at least 3 hours away. A distillery in Mason City would nearly be, if not be the closest distillery to both Des Moines and Minneapolis/St. Paul. The local foods market in these cities in incredible, and there is plenty of agricultural land around Mason City to source corn and other small grains for a true local product. Plentiful local wineries and vineyards could also supply juice for brandies, grappa or vermouth.
A Downtown Revolution Downtown Mason City is currently undergoing a rebirth with huge investment in multiple projects that we know will make is a destination. The Historic Park Inn is the only remaining Frank Lloyd Wright Hotel in the world, and is nearing completion on a multi-million dollar renovation to return it to service as a boutique hotel. This building drew hundreds of visitors as a dilapidated, uninhabitable building. Imagine what a place you can stay at overnight will draw. People staying here will be itching to do something, and a distillery will be right up many of their alleys. There is also a multi-million dollar Streetscape renovation improving the aesthetic and functional appeal of downtown. There are still several large buildings with industrial access available that would be perfect for bringing in stills, mash tuns, grain deliveries and pallets of bottles, but still maintain a street front presence. Almost of out downtown buildings are historic and have that character to them, and all of them are within an Iowa Great Places Historic and Cultural District.
Financial Assistance Through Main Street Mason City and other organizations, an individual or group opening a business downtown can gain access to grants, low interest loans, tax credits revolving funds and interested (and well financed) investors that are unavailable in many other locations, both locally and nation wide. The North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Commission and Chamber of Commerce, in partnership with Main Street Mason City, excel at linking new potential businesses to existing business to network with investors as well as ease the transition to Mason City.
The State of Iowa is helping to build Distilling The State of Iowa has in the past several years eased restrictions on the the business of distilling. You can now sample on premise, and the licensing has been made more accessible. The state recognizes that distilling can be a boon for Iowa much like brewing has been for states like Oregon and Michigan, and does not want to miss this opportunity. They know small businesses make jobs and keep jobs here, so take them up on this opportunity.
There are hundreds more reasons why to open your Distillery in Mason City. Educated workforce. Market Vacuum for your product. High quality of life for employees and your family. Fantastic partner businesses in grain elevators, equipment manufactures and retailers.
Please feel free to contact me if you are at all interested in Mason City's Downtown. We have real estate reports, labor shed reports and plenty more information you may be interested in reading.
Great to see this type of post. Best of luck!