'Full Throttle Saloon' TV star plans to open distillery in Trimble
The small town of Trimble could soon be getting some big recognition if entrepreneur Michael Ballard's plan to open a distillery there comes to fruition.
Ballard, the star of the wildly popular reality series "Full Throttle Saloon" on the truTV network and successful business owner, received permission from the Trimble Board of Mayor and Aldermen to open a 9,000-square-foot moonshine distillery at the eastern end of South Main Street, where a cotton gin once stood.
"With my brand recognition that I already have through the 'Full Throttle', I'm expecting at least 10,000 (visitors) the first year we will be open and progress from there," said Ballard. "We are not putting in any kind of a bar facility that people can come down and drink at a bar. Ninety-nine percent of our business will be shipped out to distribution companies across the country."
Ballard, who also owns the world's largest biker bar in South Dakota, needed the board's approval to build the facility in the town so he could begin the process of getting federal and state approval. Federal approval would be for things such as the product, labels, and the flavors. Afterward, state approval would be for the manufacture of alcohol, state bond, insurance, and law compliance.
The process to legally make moonshine in Tennessee became law in 2009. Moonshine, also known as "white lightning" and "Tennessee white whiskey", has deep roots in Tennessee and Southern culture. The illegality of the once-untaxed liquor required "bootleggers" to hide the production and transportation of their product.
Ballard's distillery would have a manufacturing component, a retail store and a storage facility. It would also be setup where visitors could tour the distillery, similar to the way the Jack Daniel Distillery does in Lynchburg, Tenn. Ballard estimates they would also be able to employ approximately 50 people once the distillery is up and running at full capacity.
"I think it will be great thing for Trimble," said Ballard. "It will provide a lot of tourism coming through town, a lot of sales-tax dollars, and employment for people to work around here," said Ballard.
Ballard said of the reason he chose Trimble as the location for the distillery is because he grew up there and his family lives there. His father, Raymond Ballard, is a Dyer County business owner and former Trimble alderman.
"We have needed 50 people employed here for years," said Raymond Ballard. "This might start a chain reaction to get things going."
Trimble Mayor James Davis, the aldermen and city administrator David Norsworthy were receptive to Michael Ballard's request, but did ask him a few questions about the distillery process before they voted for the approval.
Norsworthy asked how would they get the water needed for the distillery. Michael Ballard said they would either have to ship the water in or they would have to drill a well.
"You have to use a certain type of water that doesn't have any type of chemicals in the distilling process," said Ballard.
Alderman Roger Taylor asked the board if they needed to talk with the city attorney or get public input into the matter. Davis said the property was zoned for a business such as a distillery and any type of business could go there as long as it was zoned for it. Taylor was also noted the property was one the city was looking into buying, but the matter had been tabled.
"I'm just all for it," said alderwoman Darlene Biggers. "I didn't want the town to have to buy the land. I was against that because we didn't need it, but if Michael is willing to buy it and put something in there that will generate revenue I'm all for it. This town is drying up and blowing away."
Taylor said he was also concerned about the volatility of a flammable liquid such as moonshine being stored and what type of fire hazard that could pose for the town.
"The good thing about this type of product is you don't have to store it," said Ballard. "It will be bottled, packaged, cased and ready to ship."
Alderman Lynalan Norville said he believes the distillery would be a great opportunity for the town and saw the possibilities that could come from it. He also thought it was great that Ballard wanted to come back to the community he grew up in and start a business.
"For a person to want to come back to this town (and start a business), who comes from it, that speaks volumes right there," said Norville.
The board ultimately voted unanimously to approve the construction of the distillery.
Davis stated he thought the town would benefit greatly from the business and hopes it becomes a success.
Michael Ballard said he was excited about the venture and construction of the distillery is scheduled to begin this fall. The brand, "Full Throttle Sl'oon Shine", is set to launch on April 2 in Las Vegas, Nev. at a wholesale/distribution tradeshow in Caesars Palace. It is currently being produced in Boulder, Colo. until the distillery can begin manufacturing.