Mike Dranschak is only a few weeks away from his dream of opening his own distillery.
Dranschak and his wife, Debbie, purchased the portion of Liberty Spirits distillery on Central Avenue in May from Mike Robinette, who will continue distilling and operating a tasting room in a nearby building.
“I’ve been wanting to start a distillery for 10 years,” Mike Dranschak said. “This is going to feature my craft distilling and other craft distilleries, beers and wines from around the area and Ohio.”
The Dranschaks and Robinette met last October and came to a purchase agreement in May. Since then the couple have been working to renovate the bar at 1357 Central Ave., which is being renamed the White Dog Distilling Company. They are also awaiting their state distilling and liquor permits as well as a local food service license.
The look of the bar is changing and is being reconfigured and expanded to 30 feet to accommodate 50 people, up from 15, Dranschak said.
“We’re going to have food, draft beer and televisions and make it a little sports bar,” he said. “We’re going to bring in local craft beers as well as craft distilling and wineries. We’ll be distilling our craft vodka, rum, gin, moonshine, whiskey, bourbon and blue agave. All of these products will have local flavors and ingredients.”
By the time the renovations are completed and they open, Dranschak said it will be a nearly $400,000 investment.
A native of Scranton, Pa., Dranschak grew up in Marion, Ohio. After receiving a degree in chemical engineering from The Ohio State University, he went into the mechanical equipment sales industry.
His 25-year career selling mechanical equipment included stops in Cincinnatiand he said he’d been to Middletown many times selling mechanical equipment to various industries. His wife is from West Chester.
“I know Middletown well and I want to give back,” he said. “I saw a story about Ami Vitori coming back to Middletown to start a business and I was inspired by that. “
Vitori, founder of Torchlight Pass, had her story of returning to Middletown and building her business as the focus of a Starbucks “Upstanders” video last fall.
Dranschak said he was looking to lease a building in Fairfield but said the real estate prices were more reasonable in Middletown. He then got in touch with local Realtor Walter Leap about looking at some property. Leap asked him if he wanted to buy a distillery because Robinette was looking to downsize his operation due to new family responsibilities.
“It just fell into my lap,” Dranschak said. “It was a dream come true.”
As for the name of his new business, White Dog, Dranschak said it is a distillate, a spirit that goes into the barrel for aging as well as their white peekapoodog, which is a part of the bar’s logo.
Robinette is welcoming of the new distiller.
“I think it will be great having two distilleries,” Robinette said. “It’s more options for people to come downtown.”