When Aaren Glover's Benson Way distillery exploded into flames in July, he was determined to wait out a six-month process of rebuilding the gutted facility so that Alchemical Solutions could move back in and get back to producing bulk pure-spirit alcohols.
Now the one-time distillery owner, who found success in supplying customers with hard-to-find high-proof spirits from France, Paraguay and the United States, says when it comes time for Alchemical Solutions to start producing alcohol again, it will likely be small batches of fine whiskey and brandy, and staying in Ashland won't be a top priority.
"I love it here, my kids go to school here, but I'm seriously contemplating leaving Ashland," Glover said. "It can be a tough town to do business in."
Glover, who now runs Alchemical out of an office on Mistletoe Road with three other employees, said he was frustrated with the Ashland City Council's unwillingness to expedite the process of approving a liquor license for his new address after the fire, and can find a suitable location outside of Ashland for much less.
"It was 21/2; months after the fire before we were able to start selling alcohol again," said Glover, 34, of Talent. "We probably could have been up and running in about seven weeks had we not been pushed back "… it was hard on some of our customers."
The City Council approved a liquor license for Alchemical on Sept. 18, city records show.
Glover expects to make a decision on where to continue growing Alchemical in the next month, he said.
His business of 10 years suffered about $500,000 in damages from the fire, Glover said, and while insurance helped immensely, it didn't cover everything.
The five-unit Benson Way building should be completely repaired by February, said Glover, who's been in touch with the property owners, Capstone Asset Management Corp.
The Ashland-based management company did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Dagoba Organic Chocolate, which stores raw materials in a section of the warehouse opposite Alchemical's former operation, had to replace supplies that suffered smoke damage from inferno but has been using the building for more than two months since then, said Dagoba employee Jill Graham.
Ashland Fire Marshal Margueritte Hickman said investigators have not determined what sparked the blaze.
Glover said insurance investigators informed him spilled alcohol that poured from a burst line onto a piece of distilling equipment contributed to the blaze, but he is still uncertain how the fire was sparked.
An employee who was running the distillery when the fire started was not following safety protocol, he said.
The employee started up the distilling equipment and left the area to go to the bathroom when the explosion occurred on the morning of July 13, Glover said.
"Everything coincided with the operator not being present for that short amount of time "… it was like the perfect storm," Glover said.
A broken natural gas line, which fueled the fire, was damaged during the initial explosion, Glover said.
Despite the five-month setback, Glover said he still is very optimistic about the future success of Alchemical and plans to begin consulting for other distilleries independently.
"We're definitely exploring different possibilities right now, kind of putting our feelers out, but I think we're going to continue importing and exporting "… and just keep it simple," Glover said.
Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.