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Like most good things, Mike & Ron’s partnership started over drinks. In the summer of 2011, Ron Gomes, Jr. and Mike Rasmussen were introduced through a mutual friend. But it turns out they had already crossed paths years prior at a party or two… Independently, both had plans to open a craft distillery in Delaware, but they were approaching the idea from different directions. Ron was focused on crafting a solid business plan, doing the market research, and talking with the right people. In contrast, Mike centered his attention on history, products, production techniques, and equipment.

Over the fall of 2011, Painted Stave Distilling was formed (originally known as Legacy Distilling but changed in the winter of 2013), and the next two years were dedicated to firming up the business plan, pooling their funds, courting investors, changing laws, searching and settling on a location, renovating a space to meet their needs, and seeking permission from their wives. Most of this was done while maintaining other careers... Ron, an Assistant Professor of Orthopedics at a College of Medicine and Mike, running a non-profit, tasked with education policy reform.

In the winter of 2012, they met with the state to identify what they would need to open. As expected, current laws didn’t fit their needs and there would have to be new legislation to allow them to launch a stand-alone distillery that offered tours, tastings, and sales. At the same time, the state was contacted by Dogfish Head Brewery about a craft distillery law that would allow them to expand their current distilling operations in their brewpub.

Painted Stave Distilling and Dogfish Head worked together to craft legislation that incorporated the best of laws from around the nation, and with a little help from family and friends, were able to move it through the Delaware General Assembly by April of 2012. In the end, Delaware has one of the most accommodating Craft Distilling laws in the nation, providing them the flexibility they needed to build a successful business.

The building that houses the distillery was originally a single screen, first run movie house, called the Old Smyrna Theater. The movie house was in operation roughly 27 years, closing in 1975, and was eventually sold to a local family who consolidated their plumbing supply business in the space from 1985-2005. The building sat empty for 7 years until they started their renovation during the first week of January, 2013. Painted Stave Distilling is likely the only distillery in the country whose immediate neighbor is an active Presbyterian church.
With the build-out complete, they assembled their main production still in October 2013 with the help of their father in-laws, then opened their doors for the first time to the public a month later. In 2018, Painted Stave Distilling added a Barrel House to create more space for aging whiskey, and a cocktail garden to enjoy on sunny days. They hope you swing by, say hello & take a peek at their space someday soon!