I feel like opening up a liquor business in the Ozarks has been a real blessing, but not in the way that you would think. I make craft whisky, a product that usually retails between 30 and 90 bucks a bottle in urban venues in the U.S. In the Ozarks, the reality though is that it might as well be a thousand dollars a bottle because this isn't urban and it sure as hell isn't like anywhere else in the U.S. Believe me, I wouldn't have it any other way.
If you can make it in Barry County, you can make it anywhere and I'll tell you why. Any kind of a business around here that doesn't cover basic needs or at least cover them affordably is doomed to failure. The median household income is around 24k. That is 2 thousand a month before you take out taxes. If you have a couple of kids your grocery/household items bill alone will be 500 bucks, and that is IF you cook most of your meals. That means that you probably have around 1300 bucks a month to cover your mortgage/rent, vehicle loans, insurance, gas, electricity, trash, phone, and internet. Then there is the EXTRA school stuff like school stuff, boy/girl scouts, sports, feed for livestock, or repair expenses. Did I mention health insurance? No, I didn't because a lot of people don't have it because they can't afford it. For a lot of the folks around here it's cheaper to pay the annual penalty and go to the urgent care/ER when it's an absolute necessity than it is to pay the monthly premiums for insurance that isn't even close to being comprehensive. What I'm getting at here is that there is always more month at the end of your money. Beer and liquor for a lot of folks a fantastic escape from the harsh reality of living on a razors edge, but you damn well better be able to squeeze it in on a budget that isn't there in the first place.
Really, I understand this. I remember working double shifts mopping floors and being proud as hell that I brought home a paycheck that amounted to 800 dollars. My idea of a party was 25 dollars worth of cheap beer and a pack of smokes, but I still had to go to work on Sunday with a pounding head from drinking the aforementioned cheap beer.
That is why my whisky sits on the shelf for around 25.00 retail. I make around five dollars on every bottle and that is only because I self distribute. I have bought all of my grain by the silo and I currently only have part time employees (which is something I have a LOT of guilt over). So at 5 bucks a bottle I better be selling 400 bottles a month. I pay about 2100 a month just in loan and excise taxes, which makes my take home income every month a little less than 2k. It's pretty spartan, but I'm taking a gamble. I'm betting that if it's hand-made, craft product that the working stiff can afford, that they will actually buy it- that I can make up my margins by selling in quantity. Only time can tell.
Lets get back to why this is a good thing- at least in my mind. My bet is that if my whisky is within reach of the working stiff or college student, that I will be able to sell enough to keep my doors open. With that in mind, sales will eventually increase. With more sales, comes more demand, comes more revenue, and bingo! More jobs are created. I had a pretty good gig as an active duty Army Officer with 8 years of service. Pay was good, benefits were good, and as long as I did a good job I was guaranteed retirement. However, it wasn't satisfying.
I didn't start this business so that I could get rich or even be comfortable; I started it to create jobs, increase agri-tourism, and invest in the rural Ozarks. This isn't about me, this is about the people around me. I want to create Lynchburg Tennessee right here. Jack Daniels is in Lynchburg, TN. There is literally NOTHING in the area besides Jack Daniels. They make a good product, employ most of the locals in the area and give generously to the surrounding community. It's a pretty good business model.
In all, that is why my product is priced the way it is. It isn't rot gut whisky with a price tag of an 8 year Scotch, but something reasonable that any average Joe could pick up in the store. To me, that is worth the dollars and worth the support. Only time can tell if I'm right or not.