theChime - Where it All Started - Part 2
The Farmer's Market
We will continue with our journey to make new barrels with the need to purchase additional equipment for the cooperage. (see last month's newsletter for “The Beginning”) In order to fund the new tool purchases we decided to sell barrel furniture at the Carp Farmers market for the 2017 season. This was a great experience where we got to meet other local makers and farmers and started to create a loyal customer base.
What was envisioned as a 1 day commitment at the market, with the rest of the week focused on new barrels, was in reality a full time gig building custom orders and preparing for the following weekend. In part due to having to pack up and travel 1.5 hrs with our newly born son and materials for the week to work at the shop in cottage country. This was not the most efficient or profitable endeavour!
So to try and improve margins we started sourcing the barrels needed for the furniture straight from the wineries and distilleries rather than from brokers or retail stores. We quickly learned you can’t just buy a couple barrels from a distillery, you have to buy thousands at a time and need a place to store them and sell them! Check out next month's newsletter to hear about our pivot to barrel brokering.
Head Stamp History! We see thousands of barrels pass through our warehouse every year and some give glimpses into the history of past and present Canadian Distilleries. These are their stories.
The L.J. McGuinness Distillers operated from 1938 to 1988 in Mimico, a neighbourhood and a former municipality in Toronto. Lawrence J. McGuinness started in the wholesale liquor business in Toronto in 1905. In the 1920s, McGuinness formed a partnership with brothers H.W. "Harry" and Herbert Hatch to acquire distilleries, starting with Gooderham and Worts.
His real money was made as a bootlegger and rum runner who exported liquor into the United States during Prohibition. At the height of Prohibition, he and his partner Harry Hatch, controlled all traffic in liquor along the west end of Lake Ontario. By the time Prohibition was over McGuinness was a very wealthy man.
The story goes that McGuinness was friends and neighbours with one of the Canadian Olympic boxing team’s trainers and used to attend boxing matches in the US with him. Whenever he crossed into the United States for a boxing match. L.J. would be noted as a member of the boxing entourage and, once in the US, would conduct his liquor business. This subterfuge would have been very valuable to Mr. McGuinness during prohibition years when the manufacture, sale and transportation of liquor was illegal.
In 1933 McGuinness sold his shares in Hiram Walker-Gooderham and Worts, and founded a new distillery. The success of this business led to construction of the Mimico operation where the distilling, blending, bottling and warehousing of liquor was done.
His son, L.J. (Larry) McGuinness Jr. took over the family business in 1951 and ran it until it was sold to Standard Brands in the 1970s. Cory Distilleries Ltd. bought the company in 1987, and the distillery operation was closed soon after and is now home to condos.