“I first heard about this opportunity in 2017 when I was contacted by a business broker,” says Andy Faris, who had attended a mergers-and-acquisitions seminar related to the craft spirits industry. After months of negotiation and due diligence, they eventually struck a deal and by April 2019, he and his wife Stacy were the proud owners of Peoria-based JK Williams Distilling.
While they had no previous distilling experience, Andy had been a longtime board member of a craft brewery in Ft. Worth, Texas. “And I have always been a bourbon and whiskey aficionado,” he adds. Neither did the couple have any prior connection to Peoria. “But we have transitioned quite easily into the community and love it here!”
Joining them in the venture is head distiller Jeff Murphy, who held similar positions at craft distilleries in Texas, Massachusetts and Louisiana, and recently moved his family to Peoria. “He brings a tremendous amount of experience, innovative ideas and energy,” Faris notes. Together, they plan to reimagine and build upon the legacy of the JK Williams brand, which first launched in 2013. That includes new designs and packaging, a 1,000-gallon still to handle expanded production, and a five-year plan that will see the addition of rum, vodka and gin brands to their portfolio of craft spirits.
Having moved their production facility to the north side of Peoria, they also plan to open a small retail outlet there. “But our primary tasting room, event space and retail space will be on the riverfront in downtown Peoria,” Faris adds. “We hope to have that open by late spring 2021.”
Although the pandemic delayed their plans—both Andy and Stacy were sick with COVID-19 earlier this year—he reports they are recovered and back on track. “That said, we view the spirits and hospitality industry as one big ecosystem, and the toll the pandemic has taken on restaurants is truly heartbreaking,” he adds. “We’re doing our best to support as many local establishments as we can.”
The delayed relaunch of JK Williams, he continues, is about never giving up in spite of sizable obstacles—just as the original whiskey bootlegger of the same name did over a century ago. “That’s what I tell anyone who is struggling in today’s environment,” he says. “We view Peoria as a city of opportunity, and we’re proud to be located here. Oh, and we’re available for purchase at Friar Tuck, Binny’s, UFS and Super Liquors.” jkwilliamsdistilling.com PM