Award: Excellence on Main Award
City: Gig Harbor
Heritage Distilling is a majority women-owned, family-operated craft distillery founded and based in Gig Harbor. Jennifer and Justin Stiefel opened the business six years ago after moving back to Washington State from the other Washington, where they both earned master’s degrees and began their professional careers. The Stiefels value their own families’ heritages in the Northwest and have built a brand and an award-winning business around core concepts of community, customers, shareholders, and employees.
Justin distilled his first batch of liquor as a science project in 7th grade (he received an “A”!). Fast forward to 2018, and Justin and Jennifer have grown their business into Washington’s largest independently-owned craft distillery. After opening the flagship distillery in Gig Harbor in 2012, they now have four locations, with another three to be opened soon, and a wide menu of products, including multiple flavors of gin, vodka, whiskey, and bourbon.
Heritage Distilling’s most recent opening, in 2017, is in Roslyn’s historic Northwest Improvement Company building, in the heart of downtown. The company’s focus on honoring cultural heritage made it the perfect fit to anchor the development in which it now operates a tasting bar and a production area with six operating stills, all named after families from Roslyn’s early days.
The company continues to innovate and grow. Among the many ways Heritage engages its customers include their “My Batch” educational sessions, in which attendees can make their own whiskey, and the opportunity to join the Cask Club, which allows members to design and age their own alcohol at home. Heritage products have also made their way into professional sporting arenas, starting at Safeco Field. Knowing the ballpark’s reputation for supporting local suppliers, Justin pitched that Safeco carry the distillery’s award-winning Brown Sugar Boubon, which is now the featured spirit in the Mariners’ new BSB Lounge.
Heritage Distilling has quickly made a name for itself, and for the local communities in which it has invested. Cheri Marusa of the Roslyn Downtown Association says that Heritage is a transformative business for her community. Mary DesMarais of the Gig Harbor Downtown Waterfront Alliance says that Heritage has breathed new life and vitality into a prime, highly visible corner of downtown Gig Harbor, and that they are proud that the company calls their small community home base.
Heritage Distilling is an excellent example of the power of entrepreneurial spirit to create jobs and destinations by embracing the trend of manufacturing moving back to Main Street. But more than that, the Stiefels have shown great commitment to the places and people that make up their business family by highlighting their heritage and investing in the communities themselves.