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Legal know-how and yen for gin helps retired litigation chief launch new business

Posted Feb 11, 2013 9:37 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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After years of running a litigation team as a Verizon in-house lawyer, Michael Lowe soon found that practicing his yoga moves could only keep him busy for a limited amount of time in retirement.

So the 63-year-old former Navy officer launched a craft distillery with his son-in-law, investing about $1 million in the project. It is the first in Washington, D.C., in a century, but a growing market for craft cocktails among younger adults made it look like a good investment, reports the Washington Post.

Lowe himself is a cocktail aficionado, and “We picked gin because we both like gin a lot,” he says. In addition to experimenting for months in his kitchen, along with John Uselton, 39, his son-in-law, to find the best recipe, Lowe also took a brief distilling course at Cornell University to make sure the numbers crunched and gain further expertise before taking the plunge into the booze business.

Their New Columbia Distillers is now producing about 40 cases of Green Hat Gin weekly. A lawyer friend of Lowe's helped him make a case to change local law so that they could sell to retail customers as well as manufacture at the same location. Uselton has restaurant experience which helped the duo in multiple areas including a list of contacts that helped them find a suitable location and gave them a wholesale customer base to start with.

Although neither is yet taking a salary, the business made $100,000 in its first quarter.

“If someone told me five years ago that I would be an entrepreneur and own a distillery," Lowe tells the newspaper, he would have responded: "No chance."

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