Christian Simmons is a hustler and a visionary.
His company, Pennsylvania Libations, connects distillers, small businesses, and individuals, to one another with the intent of growing, experiencing, and preserving Pennsylvania spirits. He operates a one-of-a-kind retail store located in the heart of Pittsburgh.
In this discussion, we cover Christian’s long background in alcohol retail, how he has navigated regulatory hurdles, and his vision for the future. Learn more about the realities of living in an alcoholic beverage control state.
Christian’s Challenge; Wake up at 5am. Stop watching tv. Stop drinking so much. Get to work building something meaningful.
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2103 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15222
If you liked this interview, check out our other interviews with Voodoo Brewery’s Jake Voelker and all the people shaping the future of Pittsburgh.
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Watson: So we need to start off by providing some context for people, not everyone in the audience is from Pittsburgh or even from Pennsylvania, kind of all over the place. So when a lot of, I went to Pitt, and a lot of my friends moved here for school and they were actually kind of baffled when they came from out of state at some of the liquor and alcohol laws in Pennsylvania.
Pennsylvania is an alcoholic beverage control state. That means that spirits are sold in a state store, not just anywhere. And there's also wineries and beer distributors, but the hours that they're open is much more restrictive. There's just all sorts of laws in place. And now with Penn Libations, we're sitting here in the store, you've opened it down in the strip in Pittsburgh.
You found a way, I don't know if you want to say circumvent the laws, or find your own space to distribute libations that are distilled here in the state of Pennsylvania. Can you just talk a little bit about how that works just at a kind of 101 level, what you're working with?
Simmons: Right. Well, the 101 I guess on talking about the state, cause that's where everything starts.
So Pennsylvania is a controlled state. There's only, I think one or two other ones in the entire country that are run like this, where there's about 650 of these stores statewide. Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is that it has about 70, 75 state stores. Some of them are some of the biggest actually we have two top five of the top five, possibly the top three.
We have state stores in the state with numbers, the one at East Liberty/ Shadyside area, they do about $20 million in sales, a year, 400,000 transactions at about $50 a piece. And then there's a one just five blocks down the street from my location in the Strip District. That's actually a distribution center now, public, technically, you can't go in there, but they don't have a showroom.
They're not your typical liquor store, state store, anything like that. It's trade up. Bulk. So for that location, they do about 20,000 transactions. But at about average, like $1,100 a transaction. So, they're doing about 20 million. So those two locations, which I'm kind of in the middle of, I looked at those numbers and if we could pull 1% of that, that's pretty good numbers.
So going into why the controlled state is that they're the revenue they do about $3 billion a year in sales. But there's union jobs involved. I think there's like three to 4,000 union jobs. And they're, I think tied in with a little bit with the teacher's union as well. I think that they're pretty well secured as far as making sure that there's a big reason why the it's still privatized.
I mean, there's a lot of pensions out there. There's a lot of families, a lot of people that do deserve the right to be protected. You know, the state started this way for a long time. And just because you've been here for 30 years and the times are changing, doesn't mean you should have to lose the right of being able to have a good retirement or be able to provide for your family.
So trying to evolve into it less archaic ways of the Pennsylvania state store system is. Not an easy move. And a lot of people are like, think it's ridiculous and that people need to get away from it. But there's maybe in time, a lot of people think it's going to happen like overnight. And it's not going to, Harrisburg needs to probably develop an entire new platform, a new group of people to be able to get that transition going.
And when we talk about that, I guess that transition is that were privately owned liquor stores could be evolved, which is most of the country. Where you go to any 7/11 and a gas station and any corner store and they've talked about these things. I've worked with some Republicans, the young Republican committee here in Pittsburgh, which I'm not a part of.
It's just that they saw this as a huge step towards privatization. And it's really not. It's more about supporting local businesses, but I guess with the laws. I guess getting back into the laws with Pennsylvania is that if you're own a distillery in Ohio and you want to sell your products in Pennsylvania, you couldn't just directly ship it to a bar restaurant, or even to a person. You would have to go through the state stores.
And you'd have to go through that taxation. And you're looking, I believe anywhere between like, 10 and 20% just across the border, pretty much the state line. And then going through the actual being put on the shelf, being all those things. I have one distillery that is in Pennsylvania, CJ Spirits out of Cane, PA. It's 32.99 retail in the state store by the end of the day, they, and without any representation, they get about $17 and 80 cents a bottle.
Simmons: So you're looking at almost 50% decrease, after everything's said and done. And I'm completely different. I have a whole nother system set up. And so that kind of gives you an idea what these small manufacturers, cause back in 2006, with Pennsylvania distilleries as one, they allowed PA distilleries to be able to produce product at all, but you could only sell your product through the PA state store system.
So you had that major capital, major volume to be able to take that 40 to 50% hit possibly, and still be able to be productively, like, you know, make money. Right? So, but that all changed at the very end of 2011. Huge part to do with wiggle. They lobbied to be able to let distilleries to be able to sell onsite, to the public and to direct sell to bars and restaurants without going through the state store system. And that's when we went from seven distilleries in Pennsylvania to over 75, within three and a half years. So if people want to see a bubble, this is a bigger bubble than the Pennsylvania craft beer bubble.
My brewery and Latrobe Four Seasons Brewing Company was number 100. And that was about September of 2013 when we opened. We got licensed approved that spring. Prior to that, we were number 100. Now I believe was over 180, 190 breweries in Pennsylvania. And it's growing and growing. I mean, surprised that there's already licensed over 200, we just haven't heard of them yet.
And, so that's growing fast, but I mean, from going from seven to 75, within three, three and a half year benchmark, it's a growing trend. It's making money. But going into what this store is, is that we direct sell. So we stay out of the state sources from 100%. We do provide these products.
The manufacturers do provide some of these products in state stores. It depends on how much volume they can produce because they have to be able to supply to the demand. And a lot of these guys are pretty small, compared to like Jack Daniels or Tito's, or, you know, Hendrix or Grey Goose. So we have to work with that parameter as well.
So the concept with the store that differences you from the state store is that we direct sell for the distillery. This is a satellite location that is pretty much a mirror image of the distillery because of that, we technically can be open from 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM, seven days a week for bottle sales, and that we can be open for onsite consumption glass by the glass, which we don't do. We just do retail here. You can see the space. It's like 650 square feet and it's not going to be very tolerable. And it's just more liability that we don't really want to deal with. This is kind of in the sense for us, the face of the next step was, is hopefully distribution, on a bigger scale, where brand equity is built here.
Watson: How, how many Pennsylvania based spirits do you have here in the store?
Simmons: Right now we have Big Spring Spirits is the first. So going through all the paperwork and all the lobbying and all the different stuff, we couldn't dump 10, 20 applications from 10 or 20 different distilleries be like, Hey, all these guys want to be in here. Here's one huge, massive amount of paperwork. Good luck with that because they would have said, screw you, you know, they'd be like, we're not dealing with all this. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. So we had to do one management company agreement and we had to do one distillery, Big Spring Spirits out of bellefonte just North of State College.
I've worked with them for a long time. They had the same liquor attorneys as me, and he's the kind of guy, Kevin Lloyd, he's the kind of guy that if I ask them to do something, he'll do it. You know, if it's in the betterment of his company and he's a very smart guy and he understands that he doesn't want to do what I do.
And so if he wants to continue to not have to do what I do, he needs to work with me and understand that, like, I have the vision I'm in Pittsburgh every day. I know what people want, what people need in a sense of this kind of industry. At least I think I do anyway. So I guess the next brands would be, we have 10 more coming in a number of different products altogether.
We'll have about 75 to 85 different spirits in here. I mean, we'll have 15 different vodkas at least. We'll have 12 different gins will have 30 different whiskeys and bourbons, and a lot of other different things. So, and we will grow, but I'm the main mentality heres to build the perfect portfolio of spirits that we can start brokering to bars and restaurants all over the state.
And it starts here with a brand equity, where people can taste anything they want before they buy it or consider buying it. Whether they buy it here or in a state store, down the road or see at a bar and buy it in a drink. They'll know they like it because they've had it here. And it helps everybody, the distillery, the state stores, the bars, everybody. So this isn't to defy the state or to do anything.
We're an incubator for everybody. And people just need to realize that, especially Harrisburg and they are, and they've been working with me really, really well. And they're open-minded as to this, I think a lot of them understand that we're not going to hurt anybody, not a $3 billion machine.
Watson: Yeah. One of the things I love exploring on the show is the small seedlings that eventually blossom into something really big. And, and you're almost kind of in between something that's going to be really big in the future, but even getting to this point, opening up your own storefront in Pittsburgh. Having you talked about the relationship, you talked about having a brewery in the past, I want to cover a little bit of your past that got you to this point.
Before this, you were representing, that's why you have these relationships, representing a lot of these brands. I'm in more of a sales capacity, in a different type of sales capacity. Can you outline what you were doing before and how that either planted the seed for this idea or how that started to build the momentum to eventually be able to open that?
Simmons: So I guess in my late twenties, I worked construction heavy highway road construction. I was union like built roads to destroy bridges. I did it all. And then as I slowly wanted to be home more often, cause I had a son that's now eight, he got me to realize that I can still be local and do things.
So I fell in love with craft beer probably before I was 21. I was one of those kids, that field parties that was drinking, like Killian's red or Yingling or harp or Guinness and everyone else drinking, Keystone light, you know, so nobody would ever drink. And I was like, nobody ever wants to drink my beer.
So I don't have to like give it away. Nobody's trying to steal it. Right? So that was one of my thought processes, but yeah. I worked for Deschutes Brewery, their pub in downtown bend, Oregon when I lived out there when I was 19. I fell in love with that industry. When I got to go to the brewery, I went there like once a week to pick up a free case of beer that I got as being an employee.
And I just fell in love with the whole, the idea of like the blood, sweat, and tears going into making something like beer. 10 years later almost brought into one of my old school buddies. We started brewery that's kind of, I was able to really take what I, who I really am in a sales capacity and the creative capacity, to be able to jump into selling beer.
And that's what I did for my brewery. I was the cells. I was the creative, I was the marketing, the social media, the distribution the communications PR. I was it all. I brewed with him, my business partner, as well. And so I was doing that, doing really good. I mean, everything that we put in a cake, as soon as it went out of the Brite tank into those keg, it was sold.
It was sold before that, everything was pre-sold. Our own mill stout that won a silver and a GABF out in Denver for a, that was pretty much pre-sold for six months in advance. Like we didn't even have to sell it. People wanted it. So created a kind of that that niche, but it was a good problem. And the word problem in anything, it's usually a problem.
So good problems are okay. But I still think it's a problem. But so evolving from that point into the spirits world was forced on me by my business partner at the brewery. When we got incorporated, I made the mistake of being impulsive and signing paperwork through legal zoom that he convinced me that it shouldn't be 50 50, that it should be 51 49, him 51, me 49.
And at the time I trusted him. I did all that, you know, the classic trust your best friend type of thing. And it came back to haunt me because about after my family and I put in half the money, at least, and then, you know, two and a half, three years of my time, if not more, 22 months from the day we decided to open the brewery to the day we opened, and then I was there for another year and like six months. And then I get a letter from the mail from a lawyer saying I'm no longer allowed to be a part of the brewery. I'm not allowed to represent the brewery as an owner anymore. Right. And that came from my business partner.
So because we had no employee handbook, we had no shareholder agreements, we had nothing like that in place. Because when you have a partner business partner, you shouldn't be going through legal zoom. You should be going through a real lawyer. If you're a single entity, yeah, you can use legal zoom until you get bigger and something takes off. But, I made the mistake and I have a very business savvy family background.
We're in a very successful family in the insurance brokerage game. So of course, you know, we get a lawyer, we do all that stuff and there's nothing I can do. So I'm kind of like meltdown mode, you know? Everything I've ever built to be able to be my own boss and to have something and have my five-year-old son at the time, be able to watch this brew and just do all this stuff.
And the kid knew how to brew beer practically when he was five years old. And I was just thinking to myself, I even have a post on my Instagram page saying in 25 years,when he's my age, he's going to 25 years of brewing beer. Experience, you know, and he's just, and if he falls in love with it and he wants to take that on and he's going to have something that he's just embedded into his DNA, you know? And it's going to be really fun to see him grow, to see if that's something that he wants to be a part of, or maybe replace my mentality of a position, you know, being charged to sell it so forth and so on.
So that was one of the hardest parts was that when he did that, but he made his decision and he's still living with it. So that wasn't like October, November of 2014, that next, that winter I was up in Allegheny forest. A friend, family friend is like, Oh dude, he's like, if you're coming up this way, he's like, you need to check out distillery up in Kane, PA, CJ spirits.
And I was like, he's like they need some help with sales. And I was like, All right. So I go talk to them. We talk shop four months later, we have contracts all lined up. Everything's rocking and rolling. These guys are old school, like their handshake deal kind of guys. You know what I mean?
They're mountain men, in my mentality when I say mountain men, that means they're on mountain time, which sometimes means they like, you know, sometimes it takes a while to get some emails back, but you know what? They have some of the best products in the state of Pennsylvania and if not the country.
And, I started with two vodkas and a gin. No whiskey, no bourbon, nothing. Aged. And I quickly realized that it wasn't like selling craft beer. It was next to impossible. But I was able to use a lot of my relationships through the brewing game, and get me off the ground and see if this would develop.
Watson: Can we hit pause real quick. Where were you selling to? Were you selling to restaurants, bars, all the above?
Simmons: Yeah, I was selling I was representing their product to bars, restaurant liquor license holders. And at that time, breweries could not sell PA spirits for onsite consumption or PA wines.
They now can. So. I only really was able to sell the bars and restaurants with liquor licenses. And the problem was there was no brand equity for these guys. So it was all relationships. But eventually those were all ran out because I only had so many relationships built through the beer game. And I only had like two or three relationships in Pittsburgh at all.
So going into this. And, you know, thinking that the Pittsburgh scenes wearing a three-piece suit and selling spirits, I was completely wrong. You know, I didn't wear that stuff whenever I was sold beer, but I felt like that was the Pittsburgh vibe. And then I realized I needed to bring it home and like, kinda like, be like, just be yourself, just go.
Do you. And, eventually I signed my Pittsburgh winery and then calling out sellers, winery and distillery. And then, I started asking questions because everybody was like, we can't buy this stuff cause there's no brand equity and nobody knows about it. It's great products, great price line, but no brand equity.
And so I started being super defiant, being kicked out of high school in 11th grade, for defiance. Literally, they filed on me for deficiency. I never got in trouble for, it was no drugs or guns or fighting or anything like that. It was just, I always went to school. I got pretty good grades, but I just would never, could never be told what to do.
Watson: Did he run away?
Simmons: Yeah. And so that human nature of who I am is that I'm always trying to think like, why can't we do this and tell me why we can't do it. And yeah. I weaved and dived and jumped and hooped and looped and all that stuff and asked the right question in the right sense with the LCB, and Christmas Eve of 2015 I got a response from the LTB saying that this store concept is plausible.
It could be done. They never actually put it in detail how to do it, but I had to figure it out on my own and spend a lot of money with lawyers, lobbying and everything and had to commit. But so as we went through 2016, I knew I needed to build portfolios up and work with a lot more manufacturers to be able to fill a store.
So that's kinda in a sense, like, I guess in a sense where I came from in a sense, so I've been through it all. I've been, I learned the most valuable lesson ever, is that when you're an asset, you don't need anybody else. Eventually you'll need help, but when you're the asset you are moving forward.
And I was the asset for Four Seasons Brewing Company. We quadrupled our capacity in the first year and a half that I was there. Since I've left, they have not grown at all. Since I've come on to doing this, we now do sales that are phenomenal, like where this brand equity for these guys. And that's what it's about.
I've realized that I'm not, I don't want to be a manufacturer and I don't want to own a bar. I want to be the middleman and help guide these guys to become something bigger than they thought they were ever were going to. And that in that amount of time.
Watson: Well, there's two kind of terms that we've touched on through that answer. Middlemen and lobbying, which depending on what camp you're in can have a negative connotation for some.
So a lot of people see someone in the middleman role with someone who's just kind of taken their cut and, you know, rubbing their hands together with a snarling smile. And then from a lobbying standpoint, that's also often attributed with someone who doesn't have the interests of the people or something that they're trying to move forward.
And that really by my interpretation is not the case. You are supporting local business. You know, people talk about eat local, grow local. They don't necessarily think about that when they're having their drink at the end of the day. And then similarly with the middleman, you are bringing these brands to market in a new way that gives them a fighting chance against these massive international brands that we do see in the state store and everyone would know if we named them.
So can you talk a little bit from a lobbying standpoint, you talked about hiring lawyers. That's something that I guess that a lot of our audience isn't really even familiar with how that works or what that entails.
Can you talk about who did that, how it worked, what challenges you faced along the way, and just getting the ball moved forward from a legislative standpoint?
Simmons: So I worked with Flaherty iand O'Hara liquor law firm in Pittsburgh here. Mark Flaherty, he has written a lot of legislation in times with a lot of the laws, new regulations with the PLCB and he still continues to see his whole firm does.
And, they've been quite an asset to me. So when it comes to working with those guys was that it's never cheap, but if you want something done, And not to take years, you need to use lawyers. It's as simple as that, especially those guys and at the it's the same thing in boat is relationships.
So as far as relationships with these guys is that they have the relationships in Harrisburg and with the PLCB, the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board, and then with legislators and with, you know, senators and all those people. So we worked with a state representative, Adam Harris, who is the. PLCB is majority shareholde, for the board. And we worked with him and he's a Republican and he saw this as a huge moving forward towards privatization in that, in that realm. And,I believe he did. He definitely supported me. He reached out to me multiple occasions and said after he saw some publications in the newspapers and stuff like that, all the way you're trying to market the idea that we are Pennsylvania's first privately owned state store.
Well, we were told we're not really allowed to use the word state store in any of our marketing material because everybody associates state stores with Pennsylvania run stores. So we had to pretty much become a craft liquor store. And so, it had a lot to do with those guys. Cause there's people that didn't want me to succeed.
A lot of people didn't want me to succeed because people are like, we've been trying to break the code forever and we haven't been able to figure it out. And it all comes to relationships. Just like with my liquor attorneys, just with my business attorney, Eric Mongi who just actually is one of the investors that acquired Blue Knob Ski Resort.
So he's my contract guy. I've been working with him. He was the first point, man. When I went through all the crap with Four Seasons at my brewery, he was the guy that worked with me. So he built all my contracts with this entire business. And he's been doing really, really great for me. He's also a cystic fibrosis 50 finest from about like 10 years ago or so.
And so it's all full circle here in Pittsburgh, small, small world. But what we ended up having to do was me call be very persistent and call my lawyer like once a week and be like, what's new? What's going on? Who did you talk to? And that conversation would cost me 150 bucks. You know what I mean? But I do it every week and I didn't care.
Cause they knew if I was persistent that they would feel kind of like that push because they knew I had at least signed here. They knew I wasn't bringing any money from this location. And they're the ones who told me, they gave me the green light, go find a location. And I'm like, okay. You know, and six months later I signed a lease.
So I took a lot of guidance from them, took a lot of guidance from my family, which was a huge part of the support system on everything. And they still are a part of it. And my sister is the director of operations, Faith. And so her input her, you know, talking to people, her and her husband being able to have contacts throughout the state talking to the right people.
But at me, I mean, I had meetings with the state representative here in Westmoreland County, talking about different things. And I just kinda feel like one of my biggest things, I've never had a problem ever reaching out to anybody and talking to anybody about anything. And if you don't ask, you know, you won't know.
So as far as like the legislation part in the laws was that like, Getting into how we did what we did. I don't know if that's something that you want to get into right here, but like we had to become a management company. Originally we became a set. We are going to be a sales manager. PA wineries are allowed to have already had management companies set up.
There's a place called Castle Wines up North of Pittsburgh that has, I believe five different Pennsylvania wineries in one location. They have those zero spirits though. But when they made the PA distilleries, the PA limited distilleries rules and regulations, they're supposed to transport everything, imitate everything from the Pennsylvania wineries into the Pennsylvania distilleries game. They didn't do that. They didn't transfer the management company ability. They didn't transfer a lot of other things like how Pennsylvania limited wineries are allowed representatives, brokers, like who I am. They didn't really imitate that to the PA distilleries.
And we were only really working off of the PA winery laws and that mentality. So we were like, well, we don't want to become a management company because there are no management companies for distilleries. We're going to be able to become a sales manager for them. For just PA facilities. And that was where the forms that we use when we originally submitted everything to open this store.
And that came back to haunts. So that was four and a half months of waiting for nothing. but we didn't know. So once we realized, okay, we, you guys are telling us we can't be a sales manager, but there's no management company. There's no regulations for it. Why don't we create those? And that's pretty much what my lawyer, Greg Salazar, that works as the associate of Mark Flaherty, worked on probably for a good six to eight weeks. By saying, Hey, you guys need to understand, like he's not breaking the law, he's this is something that should be legal that you guys didn't necessarily adapt into the PA distilleries. And I'm not pointing fingers at anybody because they worked with us. They understood that, like, this is actually not bad. This is great, they get to support small businesses and that's the whole embodiment of local.
It's like, take the word local out of there and just be like small business owners. You know what I mean? Local farmers, local water sources that when they're used more and more people enjoy those products and they enjoy that town and they enjoy that fresh water. They want to take care of that. You know what I mean?
So if the water to the farmer, to the distiller, And my book, everybody that we get, then we get to support all those people. Just the distilleries alone that will be in the store will be over 200 plus jobs that we're supporting in that sense. So when you think local, you got to think about those local jobs, and that also the good spirits that they produce.
So,the idea with the management company is that we had to do that. I had 29 manufacturers signed up, ready to go with sign and sales manager agreements and lease agreements under this space. And we came back, they said in April that we couldn't have any wineries in here because of the public thoroughfare wasn't from outside directly into the section for the wine.
And then they said the sales manager agreements are not going to work. So you need to redo everything. So I adhered 100%. I was like, okay. They expect, I think, I think most people expected me to fight, and I was just like, no, I just want to get the store open. I don't care if we just have one distillery in here at one winery, we need to get open.
And we knew that 80% of our sales were most likely going to be spirits. We felt that they were. So moving forward, we said, okay, well we need them. We were able to take the management company agreement from the wineries and just pretty much imitate it to distilleries, which literally the only difference between ourselves manager's agreement and our actual management company agreement was one paragraph, number 16.
And pretty much the original sales manager said that we weren't a management company and that we were allowed to do everything that a management company could do, but we weren't actually a licensed management company. So we had to change that back and keep moving forward. So I lost 11 manufacturers, wineries, cider houses, Meads, and wine.
I had to call a level of them, which I was going to be a future their number one asset as more income. And I had to tell every one of them that they were no longer able to come into this location at this time, which sucked because we charge management fees. Right? We have a shelving fee. And that was close to three to $4,000 a month in management fees that we were going to lose.
Yep. And so, I mean, to me, that's an extra full-time employee that I could hire that puts food on the table for their family. I'm like that's, to me, that's what it's about. So we had to move forward with the distilleries and we had close to about, I don't know, 18 to 20 distilleries signed up. We had multiple of ones opt out because it was taking too long and, maybe they just got cold feet.
I don't know. But we got 12 going on 15 brands that are going to be coming in here. And then at that point we'll be maxed out on space. We're already maxed out. We only have one brand in here. But Big Spring Spirits is in here now, but we'll downsize them to a five foot section. I think we have, technically, if we gave everybody five feet, each we'd have like 14, 13/ 14 spaces available.
But, some of these brands only have like three products. There is no reason for them to get, if somebody is paying this much for management fee for say eight products, if somebody is only paying a third of that, they don't get five feet as well. You know what I mean? It's kinda, it's like Walmart. Exept not like Walmart.
Watson: You're exactly like Walmart. Haha.
Simmons: Haha- I like to think I'm more like Bezos or whatever his name is, the Amazon dude, you know? But, I mean, the idea with being a middleman broker, you were not just that the sticky finger guy in the middle. You know, we are like, we actually. Work. We are the face of those distilleries here in Pittsburgh and hopefully eventually the whole state of Pennsylvania.
Watson: Absolutely. And that's the big dream for the future is getting the distribution across the state, finding spots, Erie, Philadelphia, all across this area. Can you talk a little bit before we wrap up just about where this is going? Because once again, we talked about the seeds that got you to here, but this is still just a small seed that's going to blossom down the road to something even bigger.
Simmons: So we're in talks with the Pittsburgh airport. We would be after security, it would be a place where you could try before you consider buying, just like this location here in the Strip. And then, but you'd be able to buy a bottle of putting your carry on or the mini bottles.
And we plan to, hopefully it'd be able to have a nice enough space that we can do a full on cocktail bar there as well. Moving forward, we love, we've been doing talk with people up in Lake Erie, up in the city of Erie. Voodoo Brewing Company has a beautiful location up there. It's their third location.
And, they're doing really, really well. And I do a lot of business with those guys and they got really great beer.
Watson: So we've interviewed Paul. So we'll link the show notes for that episode because they're doing a great job.
Simmons: Absolutely.. I think they've possibly opened up another location in Ohio.
Maybe. I don't know if that's, I don't know. That's a rumor. Yeah so moving forward, the idea would be is that these stores are distribution hubs, like in a sense, we're not a distributor. We don't have a distributor license. We are building brand equity at these different places. So if we had one Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh airport is strictly retail, Erie, then say we did one in like Harrisburg or Scranton or say college, and then one or two in Philly, we can only do five of these.
Simmons: And that's, if the facility has give me all five of their site locations, cause eventually they might be like, Hey Christian, like we want to have our own space in this one town. And I'm going to be like, okay, well, Go ahead. Good luck with that. But what we are is not just a retail space. We are straight up soon to be one of the, hopefully one of the large distribution companies in the state.
And so for me is that we put these different centers of hubs for the Salesforce, hubs for the distribution, hubs for the transportation, all those things. And then hubs for the marketing aspect too, where we get major publications in different parts of the state running pretty much the same story all the time.
And so as a marketing standpoint, that's what we want to do there as well. And then we'll have a different director of operations at each different location. They will all be part owners. They'll all be very invested. And they'll all have a team like we do here in Pittsburgh, and then they'll have a Salesforce team and a sales manager.
And then just like the big guys we'll hopefully have over a hundred employees just selling out there and we'll saturate Pennsylvania. There's 11,000 liquor licenses out there and there's 200 breweries almost now that we can sell to. And they can only buy PA spirits. So 11,000 liquor licenses, I know some of them are not your typical bar, some of our mom and pops real like, you know, diabe or some of them are, you know, VFWs and stuff like that. But we have something that we can sell to anybody in any of those 11,000. And we're actually in the process of teaming up with a local brewery that does major, major, major canning and is already all over the state.
Not gonna say any names, but the concept is that we are going to start sharing reps possibly. Where I pay half the rent. He pays it rent. We get representation. We both get representation. And, we utilize each other's accounts. He has his counts. I have my accounts. If they already have their beer that will lead them. Like, Hey, we represent this brewery. You already carry their beer. Why not some local spirits as well. So that's the big goal here is to sole representation, 10 years from now. I like to think that you won't see, Hey, the big brands on bars anywhere in the state of Pennsylvania, because the local brands will just completely squash them out.
Watson: It's awesome. Well, it's definitely inspiring the story of reinvention, the story of, you know, dusting yourself off and getting off the ground after you got knocked down. I think a lot of people are going to appreciate that and take a lot away from that and want to support and just follow along in all the great stuff you're doing.
So if people want to learn more or check you out, what physical and digital coordinates can we point people towards?
Simmons: Well, our physical location is in the heart of the Strip District 21st and Penn address. It's actually 2103 Penn Avenue, we're really close to some of the more famous places like Wooly's Alaskin grill. We got Smallman Galley right around the corner, which is like the incubator kitchen place and bar, which has great drinks. But then like Penn max right down the street, you know, we, so we're right here, right in the middle. And we've got ice cream next door.
Watson: And then a website, social media, where else can people follow along?
Yeah, so Instagram and Facebook is Pennsylvania Libations. Twitter is Penn Libations. And then our website is PennsylvaniaLibations.com and yeah, and that's good. I mean, you get a pretty good story on our website. What we're doing, we're trying to, we're also on our website, we have calendar blocks that you can pretty much dedicate 20 minutes to you and your friends to get a tasting, which you can come in here and taste anyway.
But if you want to make sure that somebody is here, it will only be working with you and educating you on what we're doing here. We have that availability too. That's awesome. Well, we'll link that in the show notes, going deepwithaaron.com/podcast is the place to find that and the show notes for every episode of the show.
But as we do at the end of each episode, Christian, I want to give you the mic one final time to issue a personal challenge to the audience.
Simmons: Wake up at five in the morning and be up for 18/19 hours. And if you find yourself in front of the TV, get rid of your cable. If you find yourself in front of a book that you're not enjoying, write a book. You know, for me, it's persistence in life, not just in sales, but persistence in being motivated, drink a lot less. Party a lot less, text a lot less, you know, Snapchat a lot less. Like, I mean, for me, it's, I don't have cable TV at my house. I don't have, I have a DVD player and a TV and my eight year old, son's only allowed to watch a movie once a day at the most.
And so for me is that we're outside, we're active. We're always moving. We're always being creative. We're always thinking. And that's a part of who I am. My brain runs, but persistence and what you do and sacrificing and keeping really good health with your body and your mind. And don't be afraid to put yourself out there and really, really let people know that like you mean business and that it might take you a while, but that's how I got to where I was.
I put myself out there, like I couldn't be beat. And I felt like if, if I would've got beaten that I would have been nothing but a big lie. So just if you're not afraid to put the time in, definitely put yourself out there like you are the best because if you don't, somebody else is.
Watson: Yeah, I love it. And the results are obvious, early to bed, early to rise, you know, that's what it's all about. We just went deep with Christian Simmons. Hope everyone out there has a fantastic day.