A passion for giving back has helped catapult a two- month-old Fairfield, Conn.-based spirits company into the limelight -- and onto liquor store shelves.
Valor Spirits , founded by Mamaroneck native Alex J. Plitsas and Alex Mackiewicz, who grew up in Shelton, Conn., are all about donating 10 percent of their company's net profits to first responders and veteran charities.
They're also all about being made in America.
Plitsas, it should be noted, served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and did a tour of duty in Iraq. The Bronze Star Medal recipient, who went to Archbishop Stepinac High School in White Plains, is a volunteer fireman in Mamaroneck (Engine 42) and was a 9/11 volunteer at the World Trade Center.
Mackiewicz has more than 20 years of hospitality and luxury event management experience, from small businesses to fortune 500 companies, and has successfully launched and promoted a number of products. Together, the two friends -- they live doors apart from each other in Fairfield -- came up with the concept for better tasting vodkas and whiskeys at affordable price points.
According to Mackiewicz, there are three aspects to their corporate mission. The first is consistent packaging that showcases their pride for one's country while bringing awareness to the service members they support.
"Everything about the bottle and the label stresses our message," he said.
The liquor itself -- making sure it meets superior quality controls -- is number two. "We wanted to create a product made with American workers and sourced with ingredients all grown in the U.S.," said Mackiewicz.
Valor relies on bulk, high-proof spirits from Ultrapure in Darien as well as flavoring products from Sovereign Flavors from California. The spirits are aged in Indiana and distilled and bottled at Crown Valley Distillery in Ste. Genevieve, MO.
The whiskey — a “baby bourbon” — is aged for six months in new American oak barrels and is 80 proof. The vodka, also 80 proof, is non-GMO corn-based and gluten free.
Each comes in 750-milliliter and one-liter sizes and is $19.99 and $23.99 for the vodka; $24.99 and $27.99 for the whiskey.
The third part of their charge is ensuring they put their money where their mouth is. To that end, they've developed an independent charity board comprised of police, fire, military and a medical officer. Frank Ricci, the president of New Haven Fire Fighters and a Battalion Chief, serves as chair.
Asked the "secret sauce" to their rapid-fire success -- the liquors are sold at all Stew Leonard's in Connecticut BevMax, as well as select bars/restaurants -- the two point to their events. They've done at least two every weekend since their July launch with many more on the books (Passaic County, N.J. and Westchester are part of their planned expansion).
The fact that they're out there constantly -- often on a fire truck they bought and fixed up -- has helped with organic growth. (The fire truck has a custom bar which you can rent for events.)
People also respond to the feel good nature of the product and the enthusiasm behind the two best friends.
Valor Spirits recently partnered in a charity event and raised $10,000 for its local police and fire departments in Fairfield and Westport. The Chiefs of the Departments then asked that the money be sent to help relief efforts in Texas which they gladly did. (See earlier Daily Voice story HERE .)
They will also be raising money for 9/ll foundations at a Mickey Spillane's Golf Tournament at Leewood Country Club in Eastchester, N.Y. on Monday, Sept. 11 which will raise funds for the Boulder Crest Retreat for Military and Veteran Wellness.
In Westchester, you can find their products at all of the Spillanes restaurants and pubs. They will also be stocked at The Whitlock , a new restaurant opening soon in Katonah, as well as at Yonkers Brewing Co . in Yonkers.
"We live here so we're trying to get a strong base first in Connecticut as our foundation," said Plitsas.
"We want to be able to look people in the eye and have them know we mean what we say. If we promise to do something, we do it. Our goal is to exceed expectations."
Go to www.americanvalorspirits.com/ for more information.
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