I first got to know Nick Kotrides when he was the owner of Faherty’s (1989) and Toro (2001) on Elmwood. Nick had heard that I was a pretty good Foosball player and was looking to improve his game (at Faherty’s). We got to know each other pretty well during those table soccer lessons, and eventually became friends, which is why I’m excited to see Nick back on Elmwood, after being away for a number of years.
After wrapping up his Faherty’s and Toro chapters of his life, Nick ventured into the distillery business. Today he owns and operates Uncle Jumbo’s (Uncle Jumbo was Grover Cleveland’s nickname), a craft distillery that started making craft American Vodka in 2016 with locally sourced grain.
Nick readily admits that while the distillery has been gaining ground in the market, a missed opportunity was not creating a tasting room when he first opened. Now, he is rectifying the situation by building out a Tasting Room on Elmwood Avenue, at the corner of Elmwood and Hodge. Nick says that the reason that he chose this location is that familiarity that he has with this section of the street – it’s like coming home.
“Being a former restaurant owner, I understand the importance of direct to consumer sales,” Nick told me, when we met up to discuss his Elmwood comeback. “Most of the gross revenue generated by distilleries comes from the tasting rooms. This will be a great way to introduce Uncle Jumbo’s to people who are not familiar with the products. We plan on doing all of our product launches from this location. It’s also important that people know that we are a local company – they see our products on store shelves, but might not be aware that we distill in a 5000 square foot building in Clarence. My plan is to serve all New York State products – not just Uncle Jumbo’s cocktails, but also spirits from other NY distilleries. Due to the relatively small space, we will rotate the distilleries. At the Tasting Room, we will have bottles of wine, and a couple of draught beer taps. It’s going to be a nice and cozy, rustic neighborhood spot, where we can focus on brand awareness.”
Customers at the Elmwood Tasting Room will find an assortment of products to consider, from Uncle Jumbo’s canned “ready-to-drink cocktails” to the distillery’s Uncle Jumbini – jarred vodka filled with queen size pimento-stuffed olives and pepperoncini (perfect for dirty martinis and Bloody Marys).
Nick is also excited to launch his “long awaited” bourbon (Niagara Frontier Bourbon Whiskey), as well as the innovative “grip it and rip it” freezable and resealable Bombsicle Coolers.
“These new Bombsicle Coolers are the first of its kind in the world,” Nick told me, as he demonstrated the packaging prototype. “We just got government approval. You can drink it right out of the flexible packaging, or turn it into an ice pop.”
Needless to say, Nick has got a lot of things distilling these days. His products can now be found in five different states, as well as Canada. And his hope is to have the Elmwood Tasting Room open by November. At that time, this little corner will become, according to Nick, a great neighborhood hangout, unlike anything else on the street.
“I missed the city,” he told me. “It’s nice to be back.”
Get connected: www.unclejumbosdistillery.com