Vashon will see a changing of the guard of sorts in the coming months as Seattle Distilling moves its operations off-island and a new brewery gets set to move into the space.
After five years of spirits production out of a log cabin at Center — the distillery offers vodka, gin, whiskey and a coffee liqueur — owners Paco and Tami Brockway Joyce will cease on-island production. And while the company will move, the Joyces will remain on the island. As of Friday, the couple was still in talks about potential distillery locations and could not say where the business would be moving to.
“We are still working out the details of that move, but it is happening,” Brockway Joyce said. “We won’t move to Seattle, but we will move to a high-volume space.”
She said the Seattle Distilling name will carry on and she and her husband will move out of day-to-day operations, but still oversee quality.
“Paco and I will still be involved, but will not be running the company any longer, which is a really good thing for us,” Brockway Joyce said.
She cited finances as the main reason for the move.
“Making craft spirits the way we do is a very expensive process, and it’s exponentially more expensive than the way large distilleries make their spirits,” she said. “It’s a special product, but its hard to compete. We need to reduce the cost of materials and significantly increase the production capacity.”
She said the move will allow for more cost-effective production “without compromising quality.”
“I remember a few years ago someone asked me, ‘Are you passionate about the business or the product?’ And what we’ve known since the beginning is we’re passionate about the product and haven’t been willing to compromise our methods or ingredients,” Brockway Joyce said. “It’s been tricky to profit off of.”
But being on the island hasn’t been all hardship, she said. Opening a business on Vashon meant there was a “built in fan base,” and by the time they opened in the fall of 2012, there were already people excited about what they were doing. Indeed when The Beachcomber wrote about the business in September 2012, the article indicated that while the distillery had yet to produce a drop of alcohol, “one would never know that based on the attention and anticipation surrounding the small operation.”
“We wouldn’t have traded that for anything,” Brockway Joyce said last week.
Two years in a row the business was named the best distillery in Western Washington in a KING5’s Best of Western Washington list.
The distillery has been a labor of love for Brockway Joyce and husband Paco. The large tanks and intricate piping system used to distill libations were designed and built by Paco, co-owner Ishan Dillon and island graphic designer David Waterworth — all “garage tinkerers” as they are referred to in the 2012 article.
And that sweat equity they’ve invested will not be lost with the move. Islander Matt Lawrence, who has been homebrewing for three years with the intention of eventually opening his own brewery and taproom, has plans to move in to the space. He’s been a longtime friend of the Joyces, and Brockway Joyce said Lawrence’s brewery seemed like a natural transition.
“We had tasted his homebrew and really liked it,” she said. “He’ll use our equipment to brew the beer and will use some whiskey barrels in his aging. There will be this great collaboration between what once was in that log cabin and what will be there now. We’re thrilled that the island’s going to have (the brewery) to fill the void.”
For Lawrence, he said the Joyces support has been critical.
“Without them there would be no brewery and taproom,” he said.
His partners and fellow island homebrewers Nathan Schafer and Scotty Maclaughin along with Lara Seltin, who Lawrence said has been handling much of the business side of the venture, have also been crucial, he said. Plans for the business, called Camp Colvos Brewing, are nearly finalized, he said, but there are still final details to work out. He is hoping to open in early summer and said he is most excited about the ability to “do a little bit of everything.”
“It’s making beer, selling it, doing accounting, strategy — it’s so fun,” he said. “I get to jump off a call with an engineer, then talk to an accountant and then a lawyer and they’re all so different.”