Feb 14, 2017
Salt Lake City
Industry: Brewing & Beverage
Marc Christensen was a successful business owner of a barricade company. It was going along really well, and so Christensen decided it was time to shake things up. “It was a really bad idea,” Christensen jokes. But he’s having too much fun to turn back now.
“I hired someone to handle my other company so I could start something new,” Christensen says. “I grew up in the wine country of Idaho, and I wanted to go into wine, but it’s a really difficult market these days. It’s too crowded and the margins are tough. I looked into distilling and found that I really enjoy it.”
Picking a specialty was just the beginning of Christensen’s problems. He planned to make a drink using what is commonly referred to as Mormon Tea, or a twig-like plant in the Ephedra family brewed by early Utah settlers.
“We infused vodka with it and were ready to launch this drink but then found out Mormon Tea was not generally regarded as safe,” Christensen says. He found himself before the Food & Drug Administration where they requested a clinical trial.
“It would cost more to do that than what we had,” Christensen explains. “So I changed course. Again. And I thought, why I am looking beyond what we have right here in Salt Lake: grain, corn, water. That’s all I really need for my distillery.”
Christensen hired an employee with significant distillery experience and opened up Dented Brick Distillery in the spring of 2016. Dented Brick Distillery’s first product, Antelope Island Rum, is already in 50 different locations. “We are moving to expand even more,” Christensen says, and to help him he’s brought on Young’s Market Company, an alcohol distributor that specializes in the Western United States.
“Young’s main focus is this area,” Christensen says. “They are home-based but large enough to help us meet our multistate strategy and plan. Because we are brand new, I did not think I would land a contract with them. But I invited them to the distillery, and they were blown away by what we’ve created here in Salt Lake City.”
Dented Brick sources its ingredients as close as possible to its front door, though it does import its organic cane sugar as well as molasses from Paraguay and its malted barley from Idaho. “Whatever we can get that’s organic in Utah, that’s where we look first,” Christensen says.
Using organic ingredients is not a fad for Christensen but rather a founding commitment. “We have to dedicate ourselves to organics as a culture. It’s not even an option, in my opinion,” he says.
Christensen may also be new to the distillery industry, but he is not looking for new ways or new technology to make his job easier. “We use heirloom technology,” Christensen says, “and it makes a difference. When you taste our product, you can taste the grain. You can taste the wheat. Our product has body. And we utilize well water, which adds so much. It’s amazing to see our customer’s reaction when they taste our products. Some have only tasted a mass-produced drink cranked out by technology. That’s not us.”
Challenge: Money. “We were lucky to land a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan to build the facility,” Christensen says. “But now we need cash for operations. It’s hard because we are so young. I find that a lot of my time is spent raising money. It’s a cash-intensive thing we are doing, and it has been difficult.”
Opportunity: New products. Dented Brick is expanding beyond its rum to add several new products to its brand. “We are going to see a good year,” Christensen says.
Need: Sales. “There’s a lot of support for the local food and beverage industry in Utah,” Christensen says. “But beyond support, we need sales. Sales bring in cash. That’s a top need that will never change.”