Chattanooga Whiskey taps mayor's former top official to lead company

Chattanooga Whiskey taps mayor's former top official to lead company

November 26th, 2013 by Ellis Smith in Business Around the Region

A large building at the corner of Fourth and Market streets is the proposed new location for Chattanooga Whiskey's headquarters.

Photo by Dan Henry/Times Free Press.

Andrew Kean

Photo by Doug Strickland/Times Free Press.

Andrew Kean, the city of Chattanooga's first chief operating officer under Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke, has landed a job in the private sector at Chattanooga Whiskey and the Tennessee Stillhouse.

The 33-year-old Kean will take over as president of Chattanooga Whiskey on Dec. 2. He previously served as Berke's top staff official for just six months, during which time Kean worked to reorganize the city's budget and departments. In his resignation letter a month ago, Kean said the "responsibility of a young family does not coincide with the demanding schedule and rigorous nature of this position." Kean said he missed "many aspects of working in the private sector."

Today, he's far more upbeat as he prepares to take the executive reins from co-founders Tim Piersant and Joe Ledbetter, both of whom will remain at the company they created in 2011. Piersant and Ledbetter spent the last year raising millions of dollars from local investors to expand the company, and Kean's hiring is a signal that they're serious.

"This opportunity puts me squarely on the front lines of building a business," Kean said. "I'm excited to join a small group of extremely talented people, putting our different skills together and continuing to build another success story for our city."

Kean will oversee the construction of the 60,000-square-foot Tennessee Stillhouse at the corner of 4th Street and Broad Street in downtown Chatatnooga. Kean said the $6 million development will distill hundreds of thousands of cases per year when completed in Fall 2014 and also create a "significant economic benefit."

"The Tennessee Stillhouse is a clear example of timely entrepreneurial vision that Chattanooga has thrived on for decades," Kean said. "This business will at once create a quality product, many new jobs and draw people to Chattanooga."

Kean's brief foray into government work was preceeded by five years at the helm of See Rock City, inc., where he oversaw day-to-day operations there and is credited with streamlining one of Chattanooga's major tourist attactions.

That experience could prove vital as he helps Chattanooga Whiskey and the Tennessee Stillhouse transform from an upstart craft distiller into one of the largest craft distillers in the U.S., and one of the prime destinations in the Scenic City's tourism district.

"Andrew's high level of structure and organizational skils, coupled with a strong understanding of operations, are what made him successful at Rock City and then again as the COO of the city of Chattanooga," co-founder Tim Piersant said in a news release.

Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at esmith@timesfreepress.com, or 423-757-6315.