Since first opening our doors in 2013, our distillery has been located at 1115 Railroad, on one side of the downstairs of the building that houses Rumor’s Cabaret, right next to the beer garden at Boundary Bay Brewing.
To visit our roughly 3,000 square foot distillery and little tasting room, our customers have to (get to?) walk halfway down the alley that runs parallel between Railroad Avenue and Cornwall Avenue. While this was a perfect location for us to get started, we’ve officially outgrown the space. We’re limited in terms of how many proof gallons were able to produce, the capacity and height of our equipment, and the number of people we’re able to get into our euphemistically “cozy” tasting room. Not to mention the visibility issues associated with being located in an alley…
So in 2015, the search for a new space began. And continued. And finally, in March of 2017, we
closed on the purchase of the future home of Chuckanut Bay Distillery, a historic building located
at 1309/1311 Cornwall Avenue in downtown Bellingham – one that checked all of our proverbial
Built in 1905, this majestic 18,000 square foot, 3-story building has served as home to many commercial tenants over the years, including, most famously, J.C. Penney, Co. in the 1950s before it moved across the street. Other tenants included a meat store, restaurant, insurance agency, various clothing stores, and a Hallmark shop.
Clocking in at a staggering six times the size of our current space (along with tall ceilings!), our new home will allow us to dramatically increase production, expand the tasting room and retail space, open a cocktail bar to serve our spirits (and ultimately, a restaurant), and still have room for a high-end, 6,000 square foot event space (think weddings amongst the bourbon barrels…) on the top floor.
To be sure, there is a lot of work to do on the space to get it move-in ready. Wait – that warrants a bit more emphasis. There is a LOT of work to do before this space is ready. But work is underway, plans have been drawn up, and we’re committed to meeting our goal of getting production up and running there before the end of 2017.
So what’s the vision, you ask? Let’s start with the exterior. Here’s an image of the outside of the building as it looks today.
Here’s how it looked back in the 1950’s when it was home to J.C. Penney.
And here is an image of how we intend for the front of the building to look upon completion. (Note the re-introduction of the original windows and the peeling away of years of, ahem, eccentric design choices… .)
There will be two ways to enter the building – on one side, through the tasting room/retail space
for folks taking a tour or shopping for spirits or CBD gear, and on the other side, through the
Penny Farthing Bar.
Let’s start with a look at the tasting room/retail space. The tasting room in our current building is tiny- just about 125 square feet. (We’re able to get about 10 people in it before it starts becoming claustrophobic.) The new tasting room, in contrast, is about 4 times as big, with a tasting bar that can be staffed by multiple people capable of serving samples to several dozen guests simultaneously. The tasting room also will serve as the launching point and final stop on our distillery tours.
If on a tour, you’ll pass through the tasting room toward the back of the building and enter the production area of the distillery. Some equipment (such as fermenters, gin stills, and holding tanks) will be located on this floor, while other larger pieces of equipment (i.e. whiskey stills and barrel storage racks) will be visible through cutout sections in the floor.
If you’re just coming for a drink or for a bite of food, however, you’ll enter the building through the Penny Farthing Bar. A “penny farthing” is one of those old style bicycles with one giant wheel and one small one. As you may know, bicycles play a key role in the history of Chuckanut Bay Distillery. Co-owner and head distiller, Matt Howell, an avid cyclist, used to grind up Yukon Gold potatoes using a bike connected to an apple mill in the days before we were able to spring for a commercial grinder. The name is also a bit of an homage to the building’s identity as the former home of JC Penney. Here’s a look at the Penny Farthing Bar, as well as the stairs leading to the Catwalk Bar, which will be available to rent for special events.
And here’s a view from the Catwalk Bar
If you proceed through the Penny Farthing Bar, you’ll enter the main restaurant, featuring delicious local fare paired with – you guessed it – spirits produced on site.
Our event space, located on the third floor, will be one of the few spaces in town capable of hosting up to 400 people – ideal for weddings or corporate events. Featuring a toweringl ceiling with exposed beams and original hardwood floors, this space is guaranteed to make any event a memorable one.