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May 3, 2014

Upstart distiller ties products to allure of Cooperstown

(Continued)

“Our strategy has been to promote the mystique of the brand and what’s in the bottle,” Marra said. He noted he now has his sights on getting deals with concessionaires at a number of Major League Baseball stadiums.

Marra said he has struck a distribution arrangement with McCraith Beverages in New York Mills, and he hopes to eventually tap into the New York City market.

“New York City is like taking on five states,” Marra said. “That’s how much consumption there is in New York City. We’re positioning ourselves now for that moment. I think we’re almost there.”

Creative packaging that accentuates the origins of the product — such as the decanter for Abner Doubleday Double Play Vodka — has been a major selling point, he said, adding: “The vodka has been hotter than a firecracker.”

The business now has five employees, but given the growth curve, Marra said he expects to add more workers. He said he has already ordered another new still, which he plans to use exclusively for making whiskey.

The Bronx native said he appreciates the marketing genius behind successful products, such as Grey Goose vodka, which gained a huge following within a short time after the brand was conceived in 1996 by liquor baron Sidney Frank even before he had a product.

Frank cut a deal to have the vodka marketed in distinctive frosted bottles and had it produced from wheat in France. Eight years later, Frank sold Grey Goose to Bacardi for $2 billion.

“He took a new brand and within decades he was shipping millions of cases,” Marra said.

While the business keeps him very busy and often traveling, Marra said he finds none of the work stressful.

“Things are about ready to explode, he said. “But I’m having a lot of fun.”

Then he pitched more metaphors: “We’re hitting grand slams, not just home runs.”

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