With an interest in distilling and an appreciation for history, founder Mike Girard replicates Colorado-style, Prohibition-era moonshine.
Before launching his distillery, Girard spent 22 years of service in the U.S. Army, 14 of those with the explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) unit.
"One percent of the American public volunteers for military service," he says. "Of that one percent, one percent volunteers for the explosive ordnance disposal unit."
Known as The Crabs, it is a tight-knit unit that spans all four branches of the military. Girard served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, disposing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as a member of the group.
When Girard retired from the Army, he started 3 Hundred Days of Shine. He had never run a business before he bought a still and started tinkering.
Girard grew up in Montana and his service took him all over the country and the world. Of the places he had been to in his military service, Girard and his wife, Jennifer, felt a connection to Colorado and decided to set down roots. They found a location in Monument and Mike got to work.
After mountains of paperwork and a lot of time constructing and modifying the tasting room and distillery, 3 Hundred Days of Shine opened to the public in September 2014. Since then, business has been good as more and more customers discover the allure of locally made moonshine. "80 percent of our business comes from word of mouth," says Girard.
He currently produces a wheat whiskey and six flavors of moonshine. The most popular are Colorado Honey, Apple Pie, Peach Cobbler, and Firebomb. 50 percent of the proceeds of Firebomb are donated to the EOD Warrior Foundation, a charity that supports injured EOD specialists and their families as well as the families of fallen EOD warriors.
3 Hundred Days of Shine uses recipes very similar to those used pre-prohibition era Colorado. "My main ingredient is sugar cane," says Girard. "Colorado 'shiners typically used sugar beets back in the '20s and '30s, because there were sugar beet fields everywhere in Colorado, which there aren't anymore."
He uses only natural ingredients from fermentation to flavoring. And you won't find any fruit left in the jars. "The longer the fruit sits in there, the less appealing it is to the eye," says Girard. "And less alcohol content is in there because fruit absorbs alcohol."
Not considered in the original business plan, sales in the tasting room have exceeded expectations. It didn't hurt that they were open in time for the holiday season and its endless calendar of parties. "They heard about us through a friend, a relative, through all the Christmas and holiday parties," says Girard. "December was huge for us."
And he has plenty of capacity to grow production. "We're only pushing maybe 20 to 25 percent of what I can produce," says Girard.
Challenges: As a first-time business owner, Girard was surprised at the amount of paperwork and reporting required to operate a distillery. "It's been a learning curve, a lot of reading," says Girard.
Opportunities: Local growth. Many area bars and liquor stores already stock 3 Hundred Days of Shine and more are interested. With strong sales in the tasting room, Girard would like to eventually open a second tasting room after increasing production. The five-year plan is to build a healthy grassroots operation in Colorado, then expand to other states in the longer term.
Needs: A distributor. Currently self-distributed, 300 Days of Shine will likely have a distribution company involved in the near future, Girard says.