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Serving up an entrepreneurial spirit

Tucked away in a nondescript former rubber factory, just across the Mystic River from the sprawling, new Assembly Row center, Short Path Distillery is quickly making a name for itself in the spirits industry.

With its grand opening in Everett, Massachusetts, on June 27, Short Path is the culmination of three years of preparation and experimentation for Northeastern alumni Matt Kurtzman, DMSB’07, Zachary Robinson, AS’07, MS’07, and Jackson Hewlett, a Tufts graduate. Kurtzman and Robinson met during their sophomore year at Northeastern and Robinson and Hewlett grew up on the same street in Bar Harbor, Maine.

Short Path’s rum and gin have been well received by the local spirits community.

“It’s been amazing,” said Kurtzman, who majored in Supply Chain Management. “[Our success] has been totally above our expectations. We did not think we’d grow so quickly.”

Short Path’s name has two-fold meaning. “The shorter the path between where the wash evaporates and where it condenses, the more flavorful and complex the distillate,” according to its website. But, Kurtzman said, it is also a reference to the short distance between distillery and consumer.

The craft industry has been growing steadily for a few years, with breweries popping up all over the country. By comparison, there have been far fewer distilleries, and that’s where the trio felt they could carve their niche, especially in the relatively untapped Boston market.

“I LOVE THE CULTURE, THE HANDS-ON OPPORTUNITY TO CRAFT SOMETHING LIKE THIS. IT’S VERY REWARDING WHEN YOU FIND THE RIGHT BALANCE. PLUS, YOU GET TO DRINK WHAT COMES OUT OF THE LAB.”

– ZACH ROBINSON, AS’07, MS’07

The idea for Short Path was hatched from discussions the men had during a gathering in a quarterly scotch club.

“Zach, Jackson and I kind of thought, how cool would it be to make something like this? Then, every day after work we were going to Jackson’s house to ‘experiment,’” Kurtzman added with a laugh.

After about a year of research and experimenting with taste and technique, the trio began focusing on the business plan and, finally, acquiring a property to house the distillery.

The group acquired the former rubber factory, which had been dormant since a 2003 fire gutted the building, and worked hard to transform the structure. The distillery and bottling equipment and shelving occupy one half of the building, with a small bar and office space on the other. There are hopes of creating a rooftop garden seating area in the future.

“The city of Everett has been super proactive from Day 1,” said Robinson, who believes Short Path is the first distillery in the city since Prohibition. “They’ve been very welcoming and doing all they can to help this become a reality.”

For Robinson, it’s an interesting change of pace. He thought about pursuing a career in astronomy but enrolled in the chemistry program at Northeastern. After years of work in the pharmaceutical research industry, Robinson decided to transfer his skills to a more organic chemical concoction.

“I love the culture, the hands-on opportunity to craft something like this,” Robinson said. “It’s very rewarding when you find the right balance. Plus, you get to drink what comes out of the lab.”

Short Path’s spirits are available in several area restaurants and nearly a dozen stores in the greater Boston area.

Short Path Distillery is located at 71 Kelvin St., Everett, MA, 02149. For more information, visit shortpathdistillery.com

Click here to read more Alumni stories.

published August 2015