My Wausome Story: Dan and Kimm Weber, Owners, Timekeeper Distillery

Original publication date: November 20, 2020

One night during league volleyball, Dan Weber, head brewmaster for Wausau’s Great Dane, made a comment to a few friends:

“Brewers are rich in quality of life, but not so much in cash flow.”

Joking that he could make moonshine and sell it to his friends, he started jotting a few notes down on a napkin. 

The idea stuck. As Dan, and his fiancee Kimm, discussed the idea further, they both commented how the community felt saturated with good breweries but lacked a central place to go for fresh batch spirts and craft cocktails.

Soon, the couple found themselves talking about the concept to Wausau’s mayor, and next, Wausau’s Economic Development Committee.

“The support we received, and the confidence the city had in the project gave us the conviction we needed to move forward with this idea for a distillery,” Dan and Kimm shared. “There are a lot of resources here for entrepreneurs and we greatly benefited from them. Neither of us had ever gone through the process of taking a business idea and making it a reality, and we didn’t know where to start. The city connected us to the right people here in Wausau that helped us connect the dots. We had the drive to do it, but the city’s belief in us and these resources sealed the deal.”

While the business plan had been developed and funding secured, the entrepreneurs still needed to find a home for the business. They looked at numerous sites but it was one of Wausau’s most historic buildings that caught their attention. 

“We are all about revitalization instead of building new. On our second trip to Wausau’s train depot, we both saw the potential. When you think about the history the building has, and how that ties back to the community, it is really special.”

The couple purchased the train depot in October 2017. It had been an office building for many years and the original stone walls and floors had been covered in layers of plaster and dry wall. Kimm said family, friends, and Pabst Blue Ribbon powered them through those initial demolition days.

“It was always Wausau. When the idea of Timekeeper Distillery started to become more and more of a reality, we knew we wanted to establish the business here. And the train station was a perfect fit for us.”

Dan and Kimm, now married, opened the distillery on October 6, 2018. They began offering live music, expanded their product offering, hosted small events, and focused on collaborating with other businesses to create a sense of community. As they went through all of this, they soon realized that the train depot did have one limitation: space.

“The production of whiskey requires storage, and we also had introduced canned seltzers as part of our product offering. These two factors made space in our small distillery a challenge. We needed more room to grow our product portfolio and ensure we could adequately meet customer demand. As we started to think about growing our own four walls, we knew we needed a new facility as we didn’t want to disrupt the historic integrity of the depot. We wanted to reform an existing building to continue to develop what was already here versus building new. With the help of the city, we found the perfect property near the riverfront on Wausau Avenue.”

Because the new building is larger than what Timekeeper has a use for, Dan and Kimm knew they needed to find other businesses to join them to best utilize the space. 

“The heart of what we do at Timekeeper Distillery is showcase our ability to be community centric. We do this through the use of local products in our food and drink, charitable event hosting and giving, special events, and collaborations with other organizations and businesses. This new project, The Barrelhouse and Cannery, will allow us to grow this mission and bring more businesses together. We are partnering with Mosinee Brewing Company to provide them a permanent space in Wausau as well.  The winter farmer’s market will be hosted there. We have an incubator space planned for start-up businesses, a large event space, as well as an area for independent food trucks.”

Renovations for the project were scheduled to begin during fall 2020, however Covid-19 disrupted those plans. Dan and Kimm decided to delay breaking ground until the conditions are better. The couple hopes for ground breaking in Spring 2021. For now, they are focused on the distillery’s products, staff, and customers.

“Evolving our business to respond in the pandemic, partnering with the city, and collaborating with other local businesses has been and will continue to be critical to our success. Like all small businesses right now, we are doing everything we can to remain in business. We started making, selling, and donating hand sanitizer. We opened a drive thru so customers can safely purchase our products. We expanded our patio to allow for more seating and live outdoor music. We are even planning to offer private greenhouse spaces this winter so people can enjoy our cocktails outside while still warm and protected from the elements.”

“The way we see it, this is how we will survive the pandemic,” commented Kimm. “Dan and I are both very community involved people. We value relationships and the feeling that we are a part of a community in our work. We are connection seekers and Wausau is a community that values that. Dan and I are hopeful we can not only build camaraderie during this challenging time, but move forward stronger than ever as a community.”

Learn more about Timekeeper Distillery at www.timekeeperdistillery.com

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