CLINTWOOD — A Haysi leader active in community projects recently briefed county supervisors on a private business venture he’s starting downtown, which could include leasing space to a potential moonshine distillery.
Matt Owens told Dickenson County supervisors at their Aug. 27 meeting that he plans to convert a large building in downtown Haysi to multiple uses, among them a gym that will be open to the public and a financial planning business. His aim, Owens said, is to have the entire community debt-free within the next five years.
Owens also said he wanted to be sure to distinguish his new, for-profit business from his work with the non-profit Haysi Partners community organization in which he is active.
If all goes as planned, he said, the other part of the building — formerly owned by Shelia Bailey and anchoring a central corner downtown — will be leased to the person up next on the board’s agenda.
Saundra Hamilton told supervisors she is in the early stages of trying to secure a license to open a distillery in Haysi. Hamilton said she is six to nine months away from the formal approval required by federal and state agencies.
But before she can go a step further, Hamilton told the board, she needed a letter of support from county supervisors that would also clarify there are no barriers, such as zoning, to the news business.
If she receives approval, Hamilton said, the plan is to produce and sell spirits off-premise only. She said she was not interested in opening and running a bar.
What people can do, she said, will be to come downtown and watch the whole process be done on a copper still like those that had been used years ago.
Hamilton said she believes a distillery would create several full- and part-time jobs while also being an attraction for the area.
Dickenson County Chamber President Rita Surratt observed that such a business would be eligible for inclusion on Virginia’s new craft spirits trail.
Willis District Supervisor Jason Compton said he liked the idea. Sandlick District Supervisor Ron Peters said he thought a distillery could bring something to the Haysi community and be a signature drawing card.
The board approved a letter of support for Hamilton’s proposal, with supervisors Shelbie Willis of the Kenady District and David Yates of the Ervinton District abstaining for religious reasons.