New Abilene distillery pushes through pandemic, intends to open in the next few months

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC)-Beginning a company is never an easy task, but for Keith Sanders and his business partners, developing Belt Buckle Distillery has been particularly difficult. Once again, COVID-19 has created problems for a local business.

Sanders is the CEO of ‘Belt Buckle’ located at 630 N. 5th St. A touch of humor from Sanders, the business is named after the old-time joke that Abilene is known as the ‘buckle of the Bible Belt.’

“We’re the first distillery in the Texas mid-west, so we’re really excited about that,” Sanders said.

Sanders noted, because of closures due to the outbreak, the opening date for the new production facility was pushed back to June or even later, but the company intends to succeed amid these tough times.

“Our federal licensing and state licensing has been a very very difficult process, but now that we’ve got that behind us, we’re just full steam ahead,” Sanders said.

Sanders said the company was able to get off the ground thanks to the Texas Tech Small Business Development Center, which continues to assist small business despite COVID-19. The SBDC develops plans for small businesses and finds the right investors, which are the crucial piece of the puzzle, especially now. David Smith is the regional director for the center.

“They want to see the long-term forecast is for the business so they come to us, and we work with them,” said Smith. “We sit down and we do a little narrative on the business that explains the business who the owners are, what their experience in the business is, where they’re going to be located, what their product is.”

Smith said as long as there is a need in the market, businesses including ‘Belt Buckle’ have the potential to succeed.

“We give them all the attention now that we would have six months ago,” said Smith. “I mean we’re still trying to work with businesses under the assumption that everything is going to return to normal.”

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