By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 20, 2024 at 9:01 AM

RIVER FALLS – Distilleries come in all shapes and sizes, from tiny mom and pop shops to industrial behemoths.

While Tattersall Distilling, which inhabits a former Shopko store in River Falls, near the Minnesota border, isn’t anywhere near the largest – that title would likely go to a Kentucky giant like Heaven Hill – it is surely among the biggest and most varied distilling facilities I’ve seen in the craft world.

Opened in late 2021, the nearly 80,000-square-foot building has a restaurant, a large events venue, pre-function areas, a spacious stillhouse, barrel storage, warehousing, three kitchens, meeting and event rooms (including an evocative "barrel room"), bride and groom rooms, a classroom for cocktail classes, multiple large outdoor patios, a shop, staff dining room and locker room, and offices, as well as the kind of parking lot you’d expect at a former department store.

barrel room
The Barrel Room.
Seating in the restaurant.

At the height of its busy season, Tattersall employs around 175 people, mostly from the River Falls area.

So, how did Tattersall – founded in 2015 in Minneapolis’ Northeast neighborhood – land in a relatively small college town like River Falls?

“In Minnesota, the way the law used to be was that once you hit 40,000 proof gallons, you're no longer a micro distillery,” explains co-founder Jon Kreidler. “You can't have a cocktail room, you can't sell bottles on site. We could only sell half-size bottles in the shop.”

All of the things that help fund a craft distillery were now prohibited.

“We lobbied forever and were close to getting (the law) changed right before COVID hit,” Kreidler continues. “Then, all attention was diverted elsewhere, obviously. We were just like, ‘we can't wait anymore’.”

And so, Kreidler and his co-founder Dan Oskey began looking for a new location, casting a wide net and checking out sites in Wisconsin, Iowa, Nebraska, the Dakotas.

One of the outdoor spaces.

“This was an old Shopko, which went bankrupt in 2019,” Kreidler says of the former Green Bay-based department store chain that closed hundreds of locations that year, including dozens in Wisconsin.

Some of those have found other uses – like one in Plover, where O’so Brewing is located – though many are shuttered, with weeds growing up through cracks in the parking lots.

“This building sat vacant for two years and basically the city had control of it. (It’s) a big critical piece of land for the city (at the entrance to the town) and they didn't want something ugly, so they waited for the right project. We came to them and they were like, ‘yeah, that sounds great.’

Game console
This functioning game display is one of the few things that survive from the Shopko era. It's now in the employee break room.

“Of course, as soon as we started building this place, they changed the laws (in Minnesota),” Kreidler says. “But at that point we were just done.”

Now, when its 10-year lease expires later this year, the Minneapolis location – at which distilling no longer takes place – will close.

While it didn’t previously have any connection to Wisconsin, much less to River Falls, Tattersall is now all-in on the Badger State, and is even considering potentially opening another location to replace Northeast.

“For now we'll just pull out Minnesota,” he says, adding that a new location could open in Minnesota ... maybe.

“We'll see. Or we might open another one in Wisconsin, where you can do satellites, which might be easier to do.”

Pre-function space.
Pre-function space.

Rather than being tucked into a 36,000-square-foot 115-year-old building in an urban neighborhood like its first location, this Tattersall stands like a beacon on the north end of River Falls, where the main highway enters town.

Its exterior has been completely made over and it’s not rare to find the 400-vehicle parking lot looking pretty full.

In fact, when I visited on a Saturday morning, before the doors were unlocked for customers, staff was scurrying around getting ready for what promised to be a crazy day. UW-River Falls graduation weekend was going to fill the restaurant, put some of the event space to use and likely lead to numerous distillery tours, and tastings and sales in the bottle shop.

In addition to drawing from River Falls, nearby Hudson and other neighboring communities, many Twin Cities customers visit Tattersall regularly, too. The eastern suburbs are barely 20 minutes away and St. Paul just a few minutes further afield.

Great Hall
The main events hall.

“We have 150 seats in here,” Kreidler says as we stand in the restaurant. “We have another 250 outside, and that'll get filled. But then we also have other side rooms and everything all weekend is booked. It's crazy. That parking lot will be full.

“When we talked to the university they said, ‘we need an event center.’ The biggest room within 50 miles is on the university campus and they can fit 250 people, and the parking is terrible.

“Initially, the plan was to do an event space to seat 120 people and we brought in consultants and they're like, ‘no, go as big as you possibly can, because there, there's so many places that can fit 120 people. There's nothing that can fit 400.’ And we had the room (to do it).”


After checking out the hospitality spaces, as well as the employee areas – including a wood and metal shop that distillers use to make display racks and cornhole accessories (and even a boat!) – we visit the distillery, first checking out the labs, which are stocked full of herbs and botanicals and a wide variety of distillates.

Distillery Manager Bentley Gillman is a big forager and you can sense his passion from the jars lining these labs.

The lab
The lab.
The lab.X

Although a still remains onsite in Minneapolis, it’s not currently used.

“We basically left enough product there to last us. Iit didn't make sense for us to have two production teams,” Kreidler says. “In Minnesota, all we could sell was a half-size bottle per person, and here it's unlimited.”

The stillhouse is huge with plenty of room for the multiple Vendome stills, fermentation tanks, cookers and the rest. The system is automated and Tattersall is working on a method to be able to reuse the water that it extracts from its spent grain. It already has a system to capture and reuse heat.


The distillery also has a 405kW rooftop solar array and sources all its grain and fruit from Minnesota and Wisconsin (with cherries and blueberries also coming from Traverse City, Michigan).

“It was great being able to just start fresh when we built this place,” Kreidler says. “It’s so much more efficient, and (capacity) is much higher than what we’re (currently) doing.”

The distilling team is currently running one long shift four days a week, Monday through Thursday, so there’s definitely room for production to expand.

Part of the bottleneck, says Kreidler, is acquiring barrels, which are all made of Minnesota oak.

“It's definitely getting barrels,” he says. “We used to pay 200 bucks a barrel. It's 500 bucks, 600 bucks a barrel now. It's unbelievable.”


That means some distillate has to wait in totes for barrels to arrive.

But once the whiskey – rye is a speciality at Tattersall – and other spirits hit those barrels, the results are noteworthy.

“We don't do a ton of bourbon,” says Kreidler. “All the bourbon we make sells out instantly. We put more of our efforts into rye. That's where we can differentiate ourselves. That's what grows better up here.


“The bourbons do well, but bourbon is Kentucky and Tennessee and that's what people expect. So rye up here, in northern climates, grows really well, and so that's what we focus more on. We have an amazing rye.”

In the grain area we see a unique style of red corn that Tattersall is experimenting with and lately they’ve done a couple single malts, too, each of which is completely different than the other.


Plus, there’s gin with nearly two dozen botanicals, there’s vodka, limited edition whiskeys and other spirits, lots of bottled cocktails – Manhattans, Old Fashioneds, etc. – canned cocktails and more. The bottle shop is stocked with a vast variety of Tattersall products.

“We do a lot of stuff,” Kreidler says. “That's what keeps it fun.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.