SYKESVILLE — Standing in the former St. Barnabas Parish House in Sykesville, Patapsco Distilling Co. owner Scott Jendrek looked over his architect's plans for the building.
"The mission of the Patapsco Distilling Co. is to produce excellent spirits from Maryland grains," said Jendrek, of Eldersburg. "In so doing, [the business] will not only help the local economy, we will be giving ourselves a valuable marketing tool."
Jendrek is one of five finalists in this year's Carroll Biz Challenge who will compete in the Live Finale next week.
The fourth annual Carroll Biz Challenge showcases Carroll County entrepreneurs in a show for local start-ups that is similar to "Shark Tank" on Thursday, Nov. 19, at the Carroll Arts Center, according to Carroll County Chamber of Commerce President Mike McMullin. The winner will receive a $5,000 grand prize to apply to their business costs. One finalist will win the $500 People's Choice Award and one of the original 25 applicants will be awarded the $2,000 Downtown Award.
Jendrek said he applied for the challenge because he wants to generate publicity for the business.
"It's a great competition and good way to get exposure," he said. "If I win, the prize money will go to website and logo improvements."
Jason Stambaugh, a member of the Biz Challenge's advisory panel, said the finalists were scored on overall creativity, product and service clarity, market potential, competitive landscape, sustainability, strength of the management team and community contribution.
"It adds to overall tourism here in Carroll," Stambaugh said regarding Patapsco Distilling Co.
Carroll County Economic Development's Deputy Director Denise Beaver is also a member of advisory panel.
"The craft distilling industry is a growing one in Maryland, and I really liked the educational and buy-local business focus," Beaver said.
Jendrek said he formed the company last March after considering the idea for seven years.
"I kept trying to find a reason not do it because I wasn't sure I could," he said. "I never could find a reason not to. When I heard about Lyon Distilling Co. in St. Michaels, I figured I needed to start moving. I'm in a race to be the first distillery in Carroll County."
Jendrek comes to the distillery business with 25 years experience in biotech.
"When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a scientist. My dad was a chemist in the Air Force. I went to Towson State and graduated with a degree in biology and started working at Genex," he said. "My supervisor, Brian Bell, got me into brewing beer. It's the same principle as biotech."
Jendrek plans to make about 4,000 cases of vodka, rye and bourbon out of Maryland corn, wheat and rye. He has leased the building from Scott Beck, owner of E.W. Beck's Restaurant and Pub, and has had plans drawn by Dean Camlin and Associates.
"I'm in the middle of submitting federal and state permits. The equipment has been ordered and should arrive the third week of November," he said. "Everything should be ready to go before the doors open."
Jendrek envisions a tasting room with a bar along the wall. He plans to install a glass wall so patrons can see the four 250-gallon fermenters, one mash tun and one 300-gallon still in action. He also anticipates building an upstairs tasting room for special events.
"I plan to start making vodka at the end of January or early February," he said. "We need to run for a couple of months before I open my doors to patrons."
Jendrek said he will start making 100 percent corn vodka. Since bourbon and rye take a long time to age, he will also offer nocino, a black walnut liqueur made with local walnuts, and lemoncello, which will be sourced from out of state.
"I have good connections with grain producers," he said. "We'll start small and after we open our doors we'll employ about seven people."
Jendrek hopes the distillery will add to the Sykesville downtown area.
"I love this little town. I want to get it right. It feels like it's taking a long time but it's really flying by," Jendrek said.
Carroll Biz Challenge finalists:
During the week, the Times will profile each of the finalists for the 2015 Carroll Biz Challenge.
Monday: Andrew Wetten of Carroll County Farm Fresh
Tuesday: Lisa Martin and Clare Hoerl of Create Outside the Box
Wednesday: Ryan Herbstsomer of Autumn Summer Woodcraft
Thursday: Scott Jendrek of Patapsco Distilling Co.
Friday: Chef Jeffrey Perri of the Culinary Academy of the Deaf
If you go:
What: The Carroll Biz Challenge Live Finale
When: 5 to 9 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 19
Where: Carroll Arts Center, 91 W. Main St., Westminster
Cost: $25 adults, $10 ages 7-12, free age 6 and younger. Purchase tickets by Nov. 17
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More information: carrollbizchallenge.startuplocal.biz