Journeyman Distillery’s new Valparaiso location is the continuation of a legacy – a legacy of family, manufacturing, and, hopefully, multi-generational employment. While Journeyman Founder Bill Welter may have established the first distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan, he’s been hoping to bring the distillery to Valparaiso for a long time.
“I was born in Valparaiso; I spent the better part of my life in Valparaiso,” he said. “My grandfather, Bill, bought into the First National Bank of Valparaiso in 1972, and my father, Chuck, came to help my grandfather run that business. My dad was the bank president and CEO of First National Bank of Valparaiso for 30 years, and I was working with him as the third generation when the business was sold in 2006.”
With the family business sold, Welter turned to an unexpected love he’d discovered through his love of golf. Welter went to college in Missouri on a golfing scholarship and, upon graduating, traveled to St Andrews, Scotland to learn more about the history of the game he loved. When he returned to the States in 2001, he brought back a new love: whiskey.
“While I went to St Andrews to learn more about the history of the game of golf, I actually learned a lot more about the origins of scotch and whiskey,” Welter said. “I left Scotland to work for our family business in the fall of 2001 with this love for whiskey and a greater understanding of the product. When the family business was unexpectedly sold, I took my experiences in Scotland and decided to pursue the adventures of whiskey, if you will.”
With Welter setting out on his own venture, he initially hoped to begin distilling in his hometown of Valparaiso, but Indiana law prevented craft distilling.
“There was no license, no provision in the state that allowed craft distilling, and it was going to take a while to change those laws,” he said. “Fortunately, I was familiar with Southwest Michigan and with the laws in the state of Michigan, which did allow for craft distilling. We were able to cross the state line and open Journeyman in the little town of Three Oaks, Michigan, about 40 minutes away from Valparaiso.”
After more than a decade of experience operating the business and with the change of laws in Indiana allowing for craft distilling, Welter set his sights on expanding Journeyman home. While the move is a homecoming for Welter and the continuation of family business in Valparaiso, the new Journeyman location is also breathing new life into Valparaiso’s historic American Factory.
“The factory has played a big part in a lot of people’s lives over the years. Originally dating back to 1860, there was a woollen mill on that site – I believe that’s considered ground zero for manufacturing in Valparaiso,” Welter said. “We’ve had a considerable number of people reach out with stories about the factory. That’s one of the really cool things about the renovation; we’re not only bringing back to life the bricks and mortar, we’re bringing back to life those stories.”
After many months of hard work and construction, Journeyman’s Valparaiso location is finally ready for the public. Welter and co. are kicking things off with a two-day grand opening party to celebrate returning to the Region and continuing legacies beginning October 14.
“We’re looking forward to hosting people on the grand opening weekend,” Welter said. “We have some live music happening all weekend, giveaways for people attending, and we’re going to highlight some of our new food and beverage items. We hope this will be a cool event where people get to explore the factory and see the building come back to life and continue creating new memories and new stories.”
Tickets for the grand opening party can be purchased on Journeyman’s website. The grand opening party will begin with a free ribbon cutting ceremony at 10 a.m.
To learn more about Journeyman Distillery, its history, and its spirits, visit journeyman.com.