Distillery Owners Share Unique Journey

Jul 01, 2019

Bone Hill View Distillery Owners Share Their Unique Journey to Inspire Others

accessHealth/Clarion News sat down with Bone Hill View Distillery almost exactly one year ago. While there are new products and events, one thing that hasn’t changed is both owners’ enthusiasm. Chris Earnshaw and Jerry Brady have a desire for distilling, history, and helping inspire local rural entrepreneurs start their own businesses. Both are happy to share their experience with anyone who wants to listen.  

When starting a new business in a rural community, Earnshaw and Brady say it’s important to “plan the work and work the plan.” But what if that plan changes over time? Brady said it can always change, but if the plan is mapped out, then the beginning will be that much easier. “Most small business plans tell entrepreneurs to set the plan at five years, and then take a hard look when five years approaches,” he said. 

Starting a new company can seem daunting. Earnshaw and Brady suggest consulting with local business owners and perhaps finding a mentor. “There is a reason those individuals have run their companies for years,” Brady said. He suggests asking those owners for advice and begin business plan development. 

Earnshaw advises entrepreneurs to set goals while in the planning stage. “Make sure you don’t have unrealistic goals, because if you do, you might get discouraged,” he said. “Once your goals are obtainable, then accomplish those goals in steps.” Brady says it’s important to set a timeline, and if those goals aren’t hit, reset the timeline. 

A Dynamic Partnership

The duo has experience building a company from the ground up. With sweat, hard work, and dedication, Earnshaw and Brady opened Bone Hill View Distillery in 2015 after years of preparation. Their inspiration started with a 2011 article in Rural Missouri Magazine. The article featured details about a distillery in Southern Missouri. It was enough to convince Earnshaw to visit later that summer. That visit ignited a spark within Earnshaw and Brady to begin the process of opening a micro-distillery.
Together, Earnshaw and Brady have more than 30 years of customer service experience. In fact, they worked at the same company before deciding to venture off into business ownership. They agree their work experience was the training ground that led them to become business owners. “It was a real-world experience we couldn’t have gained any other way,” Brady said. 

Brady’s wife, Karen, and Earnshaw’s father, George, became two great resources for Earnshaw and Brady. Karen just retired as chief financial officer from the same company. George also worked as a salesperson there for years. “They both have knowledge you can’t get anywhere else,” Brady said.  

The Beginning of Bone Hill View

After seeking advice from their families, Earnshaw and Brady started the process to become distillers. It was a unique process. They had to secure a location before the government confirmed whether they could become distillers. They didn’t let this obstacle get in the way. In 2015, they took a gamble. Earnshaw and Brady secured a building on South Hudson in Buckner, Mo. Revitalization of downtown Buckner was already in progress. A new restaurant under construction and relocation of City Hall were enough to convince them to call Buckner home. Nine months later, they were approved to begin distilling.  

Four years later, Earnshaw and Brady have made an indelible mark. Bone Hill View’s mission is simple and timeless: Treat every customer how they would want to be treated. One customer described Bone Hill View as “rustic as an old western saloon with the class of an upscale cocktail bar.” Patrons feel comfortable when they step through the door. It has natural wood, beautiful original brick walls, and handcrafted iron accents hung throughout the interior. The eyes lead straight back to an operating still, visible virtually everywhere. A unique, premium product runs through the still. 

Handcrafted Products 

Their love for history and the region resonates in the exclusive products found at Bone Hill View Distillery. Earnshaw and Brady handcraft small batches of spirits from the best ingredients they can find. Their Sweet Sorghum Shine, made in-house from sweet sorghum syrup, comes in three variations: Regular Sweet Sorghum Shine, Spiced Sweet Sorghum Shine, and Oak Finished Sweet Sorghum Shine.

Customers sample the products by the shot, bottle, or in one of their signature cocktails. Cherry Limeade is the biggest seller among cocktails. Other signature cocktails include Spiced and Coke, Missouri River Water, Oak-Ginger and Lime, Orange Cream Crush, and Root Beer Float. 

Their seasonal products incorporate fresh produce from nearby orchards and farms. This summer, they brought back their Strawberry and Blackberry Sweet Sorghum Shine products, while supplies last. Their Pear Sweet Sorghum Shine will be available this fall. 

A trip Earnshaw took down to Bardstown, Kentucky – in the heart of whiskey distillers’ country – inspired Bone Hill View’s newest product, Maple Sweet Sorghum Shine. They wanted to offer this product all year, so they set out on a quest for high-quality maple harvests. They ended up getting four samples from a company out of Vermont…all from different harvests…all with unique flavors. 

When considering which harvest to use, Earnshaw and Brady gathered the opinions of their customers. During the last holiday season, they offered samples from all four maple harvest seasons and kept a tally of the preferred product. They went with the crowd favorite, Maple Sweet Sorghum Shine, which just so happened to be their favorite as well. “We thought it had the best flavor…the full maple flavor, without being too sugary,” Brady said. “We were looking to enhance the oak finished product, but not overpower it,” Earnshaw explained. 

The Next Generation of Entrepreneurs 

Earnshaw and Brady hope their journey inspires other entrepreneurs to take the leap into starting their own companies. Small businesses are the backbone of rural towns. Brady reminisced back to the 70s when local establishments drove Buckner’s commerce. His mother’s business, Bonnie’s Beauty Salon, which was located on South Hudson, was an inspiration to him. Local business owners helped each other out then, and they continue to do so now. Earnshaw and Brady say that “neighbors help each other” mentality is important in small towns. 

Looking to start a business? Ask a business owner what made him or her take the leap…it might be the kind of inspirational push needed to follow suit.

For more information about Bone Hill View Distillery, call 816.650.0655, or email bhvdistillery@gmail.com. Find them on Facebook @BoneHillViewDistillery or stop by 321 South Hudson in Bucker.

Start an Adventure on the Missouri Spirits Expedition

The Missouri Craft Distillers Guild was created to bring together the state’s craft distilleries. A recent Feast Magazine article highlighted their mission as “speak with a unified voice to spread the message that quality and local can go hand in hand.” From the northern border to the Bootheel, there are craft distilleries to be found and explored, each with its own unique character and flavors. 

The Missouri Craft Distillers Guild is now sponsoring the Missouri Spirits Expedition. According to their Facebook page (facebook.com/MOspiritsexpedition), the Expedition is designed to promote tourism in Missouri while supporting local agriculture, businesses, restaurants, lodging, and other attractions. On the statewide distillery trail, adventure seekers can visit 33 distilleries across Missouri. Each participating distillery will stamp their section of the map. Rewards are given to individuals who stop at 10, 20, or all 33 distilleries. 

Make Bone Hill View Distillery the first stop of the expedition. Earnshaw and Brady will hand out field guides and maps and answer questions of those willing to set out on the adventure. 

For more information about The Missouri Craft Distillers Guild, visit https://www.missouricraftdistillersguild.com/.

About the Writer

Rian Souders

Executive Assistant

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