Happy Pride Month, Yelpers! Each June, celebrations around the world commemorate the Stonewall riots of 1969, a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBTQ equality. Just as these events honor the struggles and advances of the gay rights movement, Yelp would like to celebrate how businesses with queer connections have shaped the cities that they call home. Follow along all month as we profile some of America’s top LGBTQ small business owners, all Yelper approved.
Located in Ivy City, DC’s own distillery district, Republic Restoratives’ claim to fame is that they are the largest crowd-funded distillery in the world. Beloved by Yelpers, Republic Restoratives stands for community, authenticity and most of all – friendship. Co-owners Pia Carusone and Rachel Gardner met over 35 years ago and created this distillery and cocktail bar with the goal of creating an approachable bourbon that brings people together. Today we speak with Pia to go behind their vision and learn what makes Republic Restoratives so special.
What did you do in your former life and how did Republic Restoratives come to be?
Company town business – politics brought me into this town. I worked on Capitol Hill for many years and then had a quick stint as an Obama appointee. My business partner, Rachel, and I had been dreaming of opening a craft distillery for literally a decade before we sold our first bottle. We grew up together, so in some ways our childhood dreams were shard. Opening Republic Restoratives was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done. An incredible amount of work went into just getting us to opening day. Now we’re lucky enough to come to work with a smart, funny and creative team who are the backbone of what we do here.
I love the description for your Rodham Rye, which is “A selection of whiskeys that are stronger together than apart.” How did this product come to be?
We were hoping to have a product ready for the historic inauguration of our next president. Rachel came up with the name and we ran with it. Obviously circumstances weren’t as we expected, but the need to promote women, from all walks of life, who don’t always get the credit they deserve was more important than ever.
How do you support the local LGBTQAI community?
We are an LGBT-owned business, so our interaction with the community is constant. For Pride Month, we’re doing a month long fundraising partnership with TransLAW, a local legal services organization. In general, we remind the public that supporting the community means more than partying at a parade. It’s about economic opportunity and full equality.
Any Pride events happening around DC that you’re excited about? And please tell us more about the Not the White House Pride Party you hosted!
We hosted a really fun party with former Obama White House alum in lieu of being invited to a White House Pride Party as many of us were during President Obama’s eight years in office. Friends, movement leaders and strangers all gathered in celebration and support of TransLAW.
Any advice for others out there who’d like to start their own business?
Have faith! It’s hard, you can’t see around every corner. You have to be willing to leap into the unknown almost everyday. But creative, different, inclusive businesses are what really make America great.
What other local businesses do you love supporting in DC?
So many! It’s truly impossible to list, but I’ll say that Tail Up Goat, Red Hen and Sally’s Middle Name are three of my personal favorite restaurants in DC and where you can find me more often than I’d like to admit.