Loan agreement signed for Ponfeigh Distillery, opening in the former 84 Lumber


Until next year, whiskey is slated to flow at the former 84 Lumber in Somerset Township.

Ponfeigh Distillery founder Max Merrill signed a $ 4 million loan agreement with First Commonwealth Bank on Thursday. He said the whiskey distillery, which will make rye gin and rum, will open next summer.

“Everywhere I run and everyone I speak to is just so excited about this project,” he said, adding that hotel workers have told him they look forward to telling customers about a new place you can visit.

Ponfeigh Distillery's founder, Max Merrill, center, signs a loan agreement with the First Commonwealth Bank on Thursday on the site of the former 84 Lumber in Somerset Township.  The distillery is slated to open next summer.  Pictured from left are Distillery Architect Chad Chalmers, First Commonwealth Senior Vice President Bryan Fisher, First Commonwealth Somerset County Branch Manager Kirsten Reed, First Commonwealth Senior Small Business Development Officer Julia Vitale, Merrill, Thomas Feed Mill General Manager Jason Thomas, Windy Acres Farm owner Doug Show and Bigfoot Construction owner Stephen McRae.

Construction on the property is slated to begin in late August, Merrill said. Windber’s Bigfoot Construction is the prime contractor. Owner Stephen McRae said it should take about nine months to build.

The total cost of the project is approximately $ 4.7 million, according to Merrill, and some of the funding was raised by approximately 40 investors in Somerset, Cambria and Blair counties.

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Merrill said the distillery will be able to produce more than 50,000 cases – or about 250,000 bottles – of spirits per year once it is operational.

“Whether we can produce that much depends on demand,” he said. He added that the distillery was in talks with a major whiskey producer but would not disclose which company.

A still image of the design of the Ponfeigh Distillery is shown.  The architectural work was carried out by Wildman Chalmers Design from Pittsburgh.

Initially, he said he will employ 13 people but hopes to have 30 people within three years.

In addition to whiskey production, the distillery will have an indoor / outdoor bar, a whiskey museum, food trucks and a stage with “B-plus” acts, as Merrill put it.

The distillery also works with Thomas Feed Mill to provide local grain for the distillation process.

“I see a huge impact on the farming community,” said Jason Thomas, general manager of the feed mill. “We’ll be able to store multiple grains to cover our mash bills.”

Merrill estimated the distillery could have 40,000 visitors a year.

“We are pleased with the volume that we will bring through here,” he said.

An aerial view of the design of the Ponfeigh Distillery is shown.  The architectural work was carried out by Wildman Chalmers Design from Pittsburgh.

The distillery’s design will also include wood cut by Merrills Farm in the Summit and Northampton townships.

“We’re getting kind of rustic,” said project architect Chad Chalmers of Wildman Chalmers Design in Pittsburgh.

Kirsten Reed, the first female branch manager of the Commonwealth Bank Somerset County, promoted the project.

“I think it’s really something Somerset needs,” she said.

Follow Eric Kieta on Twitter @EricKietaDA.

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