It all started simply enough, like many great ideas for businesses do.
A few summers ago, Timothy Pappin and his nephew Ryan Mijal were hanging out “up north,” enjoying a few cocktails. When Mijal tried his uncle’s drink of choice, the iconic brandy Old Fashioned, for the first time, he was hooked.
After hours of talk – and a few more drinks – the duo concocted an idea that turned into their own business, Arty’s. Now they bottle the cocktails that they enjoy so much.
“We didn’t have any experience in the industry,” Pappin says. “We just had an idea.”
That idea, coupled with the public’s acceptance and demand, has Arty’s of Clintonville on the way to becoming a million-dollar business just 15 months since its launch.
The perfect recipe
Old Fashioneds, typically made with brandy or whiskey, bitters, sugar and soda, are the oldest cocktail invented, Pappin says. And it’s a classic Wisconsin drink. “I knew that there was some general interest,” he says. “Everyone thinks they make the best Old Fashioned.”
But when Pappin and Mijal considered bottling Old Fashioneds, they learned, much to their surprise, that no one else was doing it. Sure, there were some drink mixes out there (sans alcohol) and some flavored malt beverage cocktails. But their idea was to have a portable Old Fashioned – just open the bottle, pour over ice and enjoy.
“There was a lot of research that probably took us 18 months while we held down our regular jobs,” says Pappin, who previously worked in manufacturing, and also has a background in bartending and bar ownership.
One of the first concerns was finding the proper liquor.
“We are what is considered a distilled spirits product,” Pappin says. They met with distilleries and finally found one in Madison that provides bulk spirits; all the ingredients are then mixed together and bottled at Arty’s 7,500-square-foot plant in Clintonville under Mijal’s supervision.
Getting the recipe right was just as important as the liquor.
“I wanted to put a real cocktail out there,” Pappin says. After six months of tweaking and taste testing, they hit on a recipe worth mass producing. “Everyone’s first reaction was, ‘Wow! That tastes like a real Old Fashioned.’”
Today, just 15 months after launching, Arty’s bottles about 2,100 bottles an hour of three different flavors: brandy sweet, whiskey sweet and whiskey sour. Working with seven distributors, Arty’s is sold in more than 600 locations, covering every county in the state.
“There is an absolute following,” Pappin says. In just one year, Arty’s soared to 4,000 “Likes” on Facebook. “There is a true opportunity to produce true artisan cocktails that have a flavor people want. I think we have hit a niche.”
Arty’s, which is already outgrowing its current location, has an approved option to build on six acres in the Clintonville Industrial Park, Pappin says. And they’re working to get Arty’s offered at both Lambeau Field and Miller Park.
“We’re prepared to expand,” says Pappin, adding that Arty’s also hopes to take the brand beyond Wisconsin’s borders.
Dave Thiel, executive director of Waupaca County Economic Development, an early supporter of Arty’s, would be happy to see that happen.
“Arty’s is the perfect example of economic development in rural communities and how most of the growth comes from within,” he says. “The county and city were able to assist Arty’s with their two most recent expansions via the Community Development Block Grant Revolving Loan Fund program.
“Their unique product has the ability to shine a spotlight on both the city of Clintonville and Waupaca County. If their brand goes national, there could be additional opportunities to partner on that recognition.”
In addition to making one heck of a tasty drink, Pappin remains proud that he and his nephew were willing to take the leap. “True entrepreneurs take risks,” he says.
“I was very confident with my projections. I knew exactly what I was trying to achieve,” Pappin says. “I’m absolutely proud of what we’ve done.”
So just who is the enigmatic Arty that the company is named for? Timothy Pappin says that in planning their company, they tossed around various names for their company and its drink.
Since many companies use their owners’ names, Pappin tried variations and finally combined the “T” of his first name and with the “R” of his co-owner nephew’s first name, and “RT” became “Arty.” Pappin then added, “It’s not a party without Arty’s,” and they loved the name and tagline.
The two also liked how the name Arty could suggest the persona of a bartender who makes great Old Fashioneds.
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