Tammie and Brandon Begotka plan to open a distillery, the Waterford Stillhouse, in downtown Waterford this year. The couple, who live in Waterford with their children, are working on permits for the establishment and will be updating the exterior of the building soon.

Their plan is to create a gathering space, not another bar

By Tracy Ouellette

SLN Staff

When Tammie and Brandon Begotka moved to Waterford 10 years ago, they quickly connected with the community.

“In that time we have really been passionate about this community,” Brandon Begotka said. “We’ve created two community events in that time and volunteered a lot of hours with community organizations.”

The couple and their three boys attend Waterford’s Living Water Lutheran Church and said the connections they have in the community stem from their desire to serve.

“Our faith has led us to give as much as we can,” Brandon Begotka said.

The Begotkas recently decided to expand their community efforts to the business side of things and are opening a distillery, the Waterford Stillhouse, this year.

“One thing we’ve consistently seen is that this vibrant community, with its amazing people, doesn’t have a downtown that reflects that,” Brandon said. “We saw opening a business in the downtown as the next step for us. It was time to roll up our sleeves and get something going on Main Street.”

Brandon Begotka checks out the equipment at a distillery in Minocqua to learn more about the business he and his wife, Tammie, plan to open in Waterford.

Brandon said he and Tammie decided that if they wanted to see a revitalized downtown district, they were going to have to step up.

“We’re leading by example,” Brandon said. “We’re bringing in a place where friends and the community can interact in the downtown.”

A personal connection

Downtown Waterford has been under a redesign for the past couple of years, with extensive roadwork, signage and new lighting along with a new bridge over the Fox River.

The Begotkas wanted to create something to counter the loss of personal interaction between people in the newly renovated downtown.

“In this day and age, we feel like a lot of social interaction is online and we’re losing spaces to get together to interact face-to-face,” Brandon said. “So, we started thinking about what kind of business we could do that would bring people together.”

The Begotkas considered a few options, but the idea of a distillery was one of their early thoughts that stuck with them.

“It’s a new trend in Wisconsin, just starting out here,” Brandon said. “So, we went around to distilleries, learning about the process and meeting people.”

What they found was many of the small, local distilleries were run by people just like them.

“They were family oriented and community oriented like we are,” Brandon said. “What we found is their tasting rooms were upscale cocktail lounges that were really accessible to anyone, any age.”

Brandon said they also liked the idea of creating a tangible product that is from Waterford.

“That is a big part of the plan, to have something made right here in town,” he said.

Local products only

The Begotkas plan to produce vodka and flavored vodka at the Waterford distillery and they have contracted with 45th Parallel Distillery in New Richmond to provide bourbon for the establishment.

“Bourbon has to be aged and because we don’t have our permit yet, we need to have it produced there so it’s ready for when we open,” Brandon said.

The distillery will serve its vodkas and bourbon onsite along with craft sodas.

“We’ll be offering both alcoholic and non-alcoholic craft drinks,” Brandon said.

But more importantly to the Begotkas is to provide a family friendly atmosphere where every feels welcome.

“That’s one of the negative things we have heard – not another bar in Waterford,” Brandon said. “But we’re not just another place to drink, that’s not what this is about. It’s about offering a gathering place for everyone to connect and experience the downtown.”

The Waterford Stillhouse won’t serve food, but patrons will be welcome to bring food in from local establishments or even have food delivered. The distillery will only have its own products for sale.

“We will hold a liquor license and offer the products we make onsite, but we won’t have outside alcohol or beer or wine,” Brandon said.

Exploring Waterford

The Begotkas also have plans to offer patrons an “Explore Waterford” manual to get to know the downtown area.

“With the new village ordinance, people can walk around with their drinks and check out the downtown,” Brandon said. “We’re also going to have fishing poles people can check out to fish in the river and nets for the kids to catch butterflies and frogs. We want them to connect with the nature of this area as well as each other.

Brandon said work on the exterior of the building, at 228 E. Main St., will begin soon with interior work to follow with the goal to be up and running sometime this summer.

“We see the greater plan in the downtown and think it has a lot of potential with beautiful green space, a brewery going into the fire building and the new park and we’re really excited to collaborate with them,” Brandon said.