By ALAN J. ORTBALS
Adam Stumpf, a seventh-generation Columbia, Ill., farmer was the runner-up in last year’s Metro East Startup Challenge competition. Nearly a year later, Stumpf is ready to introduce Stumpy’s Spirits made on the farm that has supported his family for so many years.
Stumpf said he was going to be doing things differently from most distillers. All the ingredients for his bourbon, vodka, moonshine and what he calls “white misty” will be coming from the farm. And, in addition to the corn, wheat, barley and rye, Stumpf is going to malt his own grain.
“Malt is one of the key ingredients in making any kind of beverage alcohol from grain,” Stumpf said. “Typically breweries and distilleries will buy their malt from large companies like Cargill or ADM. We’re actually going to be using all of the grains from the farm and malting it in-house ourselves to use for our spirits.”
As the runner up in the business plan competition, Stumpf received $5,000. While that doesn’t sound like a lot of money, it’s been essential in helping Stumpf get his fledgling business off the ground.
“It’s honestly been a tremendous help with all of the startup costs,” Stumpf said. “It seems like the closer we get to operation, the more expenses we incur. Without the $5,000 we got for the Metro East Startup Challenge we would be in a world of hurt.”
Stumpf said that he was getting pretty close to the initial production run but the legalities for a distillery can be daunting. He said that he was in the second of three licensing steps and waiting on label approval. As soon as he gets that, he’ll apply for the state manufacturing license. If all goes well, he hopes to be operational by sometime in March.
Stumpf plans to start on a small, local scale and expand from there. Unlike breweries that can sell to retailers, bars, restaurants and the like, distilleries in Illinois are required to stay within a three tiered system. Stumpf explained that he will be allowed to make retail sales at the distillery itself but cannot engage in any other retail sales. The law requires that he sell to a wholesaler or distributor who then sells to the retailer.
“It’s a honor winning second prize in the Metro East Startup Challenge,” Stumpf said. “And I owe a huge thank you to Patrick McKeehan (SBDC director) and his staff. They were incredibly helpful along the way. As we went through and refined our business plan, from beginning to end we reached out to Patrick’s staff on key aspects of that business plan. We even reached out for help on financial projections and that kind of thing and his crew down there at the SBDC was just so incredibly helpful. They were a fantastic resource and I honestly think our distillery would be way behind schedule right now if not for the prize that we won and the help that we received.”