A Raleigh entrepreneur and distiller has plans to bring Liberty & Plenty Distillery to a former tobacco warehouse, directly adjacent to The Rickhouse
By Hannah Lee
Tina Williford knows wine – booze in general, really. And shouldn’t she? Tina traveled the world in search of the next great taste for more than 15 years as the former president and CEO of Grape Expectations, a national wine import company. She sourced the globe’s finest spirits and wines from Scotland to South Africa – she even lived in Turks and Caicos for awhile – all in the name of bringing them back stateside. The gig was great, but Tina admits it wasn’t always as satisfying as she’d have preferred.
“I spent a lot of time, a lot of money, building somebody else’s brands,” Tina says. “So, after I sold the business, I thought, it doesn’t make any sense for me to keep building somebody else’s. I need to figure out something to do for myself.”
Those ambitions turn into reality this fall, as the longtime Raleigh entrepreneur opens her own startup craft distillery, Liberty & Plenty, directly adjacent to The Rickhouse on Foster Street. Tina’s distillery will produce rum, whiskey, gin and flavored vodkas – all under her watchful eye.
Construction on the 3,400-square-foot tobacco warehouse began earlier this year. Chapel Hill-based pod architecture + design (pod a+d) plans to transform the industrial brick building into a “fresh, contemporary space within the steel and wood patina,” Tina says. She and the pod a+d team also decided to extend the front patio to accommodate up to 50 people both inside and outside.
“While it’s not a very big footprint here, it actually will be designed to be customer facing,” Tina says of the service space where guests can mingle and lounge. She adds that it will likely be open “about four days a week since we’re such a compact footprint, and we really need to be able to do production.”
Two big front doors will open to a “furniture bar” with a glass window at the rear, meant to create a visual and physical separation (a state requirement for all operating distilleries) between customers and the production process.
“In other words, we’ll feed two birds with one seed,” pod a+d co-founder Doug Pierson says. “The furniture bar will satisfy the state mandate while accommodating a host of distillery needs.”
Some of the distilling equipment came with the building when Tina acquired the space in 2019. In fact, she originally visited to purchase the equipment, but immediately fell in love with the location. She had been scouring as far away as South Carolina to secure a spot since 2018.
“There’s this amazing energy in Durham,” she says. “That was one of the things that kind of intrigued me very quickly.”
As for the name? It’s derived from the North Carolina state seal – at its center are two robed figures: “Liberty” on the left and “Plenty” on the right. It’s a nod to two things. No. 1: Tina’s role as one of the few female distillers in the country – when she graduated from Heriot-Watt University in Scotland in 2018 with a master’s in brewing and distilling, she was one of just 10 women in her 100-person class. And No. 2: “Plenty” alludes to what Tina’s distillery will produce: Plenty of spirits. She could “never pick a lane” or one particular style to focus on, so … she didn’t. The interior design of her logo pays homage to that with a juniper berry (a dominant ingredient in gin), a wheat chaff (reflective of the grains used in whiskey and bourbon) and a sugar cane stalk (used in rum).
Tina hopes to be a role model for all the women out there pursuing a career in the male-dominated distilling industry, especially for the ones pursuing ownership. “It’s just the beginning,” she says.