BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — What started as a hobby for some friends in a Wyoming County barn soon turned into a full-fledged business in Buffalo. Now, Buffalo Distilling Company is celebrating 10 years.
“We had a family friend that was a moonshiner,” said Buffalo Distilling Company co-founder, Frank Weber. “He came up from North Carolina and he brought a homemade still with him.”
That still, used to make alcohol, ended up in Weber’s barn in the Town of Bennington.
“We would just have these little moonshine parties in my barn, and it turned into where we were doing it more and more,” Weber said. “My current business partner, Andy, he would come out and he said, ‘hey, we should do this legitimately.”
Around that time, the state passed the Craft NY Act, making it easier for small businesses to get their brewing, distilling and farm licenses. Weber said this allowed the friends to turn his barn into a legitimate distillery.
After four years, the friends decided it was time to head to their namesake city.
During the 19th century, Buffalo Distilling was the largest distillery in the area. After shutting down in the early 1900s, the name went back into the public domain, leaving it up for grabs for this group of Wyoming County moonshiners.
“We had named the company Buffalo Distilling even though we were out there [in Bennington.] Part of that was we wanted to take a little piece of history and kind of revitalize that,” Weber said.
With a name, the company needed a new space — finally finding a home in Larkinville.
In 2017, Buffalo Distilling Company opened its doors. Now, they make everything from whiskey to Krupnik, but Weber said one of the most rewarding things they’ve done is a vodka-based drink in honor of Bills Mafia.
“[It was] 2020, the Bills are killing it and Bills Mafia is going crazy,” Weber said.
With that, Mafia Sauce was born. But the company wasn’t ready to launch the liquor just yet — they needed to enlist the help of someone familiar with what Bills Mafia really means.
“We reached out to Del Reid and said, ‘Hey. we’re going to be launching this product. How do we do it right?'” Weber recalled. “Del has a business that gives back — 26 Shirts — and that’s exactly what he said: ‘You have to give back.'”
After doing some research, Buffalo Distilling reached out to the P.U.N.T. Foundation, a nonprofit, which helps Western New York families impacted by pediatric cancer, and decided to donate a dollar for every bottle of Mafia Sauce sold.
“Last year, at the end of the season, we donated $10,000 to them,” Weber said. “I would say it was the high point of my entire career.”
Now, Buffalo Distilling is looking ahead, including celebrating a line of bottled-in-bond bourbon and plans to launch a new project next year.
“When you come to Buffalo, you go to the Anchor Bar, you go to Bar-Bill — you have these staples,” Weber said. “I feel like we are getting to the point where Buffalo Distilling has a good reputation for making good products and being true to what we do.”
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Marlee Tuskes is an anchor and reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here and follow her on Twitter.