Dodge City revives blighted building into distillery

DODGE CITY, Kansas – A college student is fixing up an historic building and turning it into a distillery.

A 1929 Dodge City building has been used for many things, including a fire hall. But for over a decade now it’s been vacant.

“They actually had to classify this building as slum and blight.”

Before tearing the building down, the city asked locals to propose ideas for its future use.

K-State senior Hayes Kelman, along with his dad and family friend, were the only ones to step forward. The Kansas farmers’ plan to turn the building into a distillery took off.

“We’re gonna come in and restore it to its original beauty, and put something in it that’s fun and that the city can take pride in,” said Hayes Kelman.

Now, the Boot Hill Distillery owns the building. It’s on the national register of historic places, so they have to follow certain requirements. But Kelman said history adds to their product.

“We’re famous for cattle, we’re famous for agriculture, and it was really built on whiskey so why not have whiskey again.”

It’s a local distillery, but the ingredients are local too. The three farmers will be using grain from all of their own fields.

“From farm to bottle. Everything that we produce, most all the grains will be from us, if we can grow the grain, we’ll grow it.”

Hayes said they received over $190,000 from a community development block grant, which aims to help small towns revive old buildings.

The city is happy to have a new and unique business, and Kelman, who has been studying under other distillers, is excited to introduce the art of craft distilling to southwest Kansas.

“I hope that the community can really embrace the fact that they have a distillery and they have a great product that comes out of Dodge City.”

The renovation plans should be approved by their grant by January. Kelman said they hope to hold an open house, complete with their tasting room by the beginning of summer 2015.

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