After working at Molson Coors and then Sprecher Brewing, Jim Kanter has a pretty solid knowledge of the beer industry, but after a recent shift to Milwaukee’s Central Standard Craft Distilling, he’s bringing his beverage expertise to Brew City spirits.
Kanter has also been extremely active in the civic arena, too, and is currently the chairman of the Wisconsin Center District board.
He joins Central Standard at a time when the indie distiller is working toward opening a brand new tasting room and event space in a gorgeous 19th century building on Clybourn Avenue and is also preparing to release a new bourbon.
The week after he started his new gig at the start of October, we caught up with Kanter to ask him about his past in beer and his present and future in craft distilling.
OnMilwaukee: Congratulations on your new gig. What attracted you to Central Standard?
Jim Kanter: First thing is the product. The North Brandy is probably one of the best brandies out there. Also, the Door County Cherry Vodka is a great twist on vodka.
Second is the creativity of (co-founders) Pat (McQuillan) and Evan (Hughes) in getting things done. Third is the common values we share in being involved and helping build a community.
What will your role be at Central Standard?
I am the Chief Commercial Officer. Essentially, bringing the ideas to life with our distributor partners and retail partners to drive awareness of our great brands and sales for all. Also, to grow the footprint into other markets.
Are there lessons learned from the macro and, more recently, craft beer industry that you can apply to the craft distilling game?
Absolutely. Creativity and ideas will always win out. You can do different things with different budgets certainly. The challenges of a craft company are limits of big marketing budgets. We need to think creatively with the assets we have. As Vince Lombardi once said, "The measure of who you are is what you do with what you have." I have always liked that statement.
How do you see the new facility changing things for the Central Standard?
It will give us a great presence Downtown to drive awareness and be a tourist area to continue to bring people Downtown. We view it as a way to tell our story, try new and unique things and bring great energy Downtown for people to stop by before going out to the great events, bars or restaurants Downtown. We certainly want it to be something the community can be proud of.
What other kinds of exciting things can we expect to come soon from Central Standard? Is there a plan to grow and expand beyond the area?
Pat and Evan are always working on creative, fun things ... including products. With my role essentially driving a lot of the in market plans they will be able to unleash even more of their time to keep the ideas flowing and get to things they may have not had a chance to get to in the past.
The most recent thing we are very excited about is Walmart bringing in our products into their stores. We were one of five companies from the state that were selected and one of 175 companies nationally in their latest round of new item selection process.
Loaded question: it's Friday night and it's been a long week. Whiskey or beer?
Ha! Sometimes it depends on the week. I would now have to say bourbon; we have a new one coming out later this month. I did get to sample a little over the last few weeks (and) it is a go to now for sure. Stay tuned for more news on that.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.