South Jersey couple, rum enthusiasts, opens brand-new distillery

WOODBURY, N.J. (WPVI) -- "We have been joking for years about moving to somewhere warm and growing sugarcane and making rum," said Erin Wright.

While southern New Jersey may not be the most exotic spot, the Wright family has finally made their dream come true with Striped Lion Distilling.

"At the very beginning, it was really like a treasure hunt," said Erin about the many voyages she traveled with her husband, Kevin.

Their liquor-sipping fixation began while on vacation in Bermuda. Since then, they have collected more than 300 kinds in their home. The duo has traveled to various holes-in-the-wall in order to craft their notion of the best-tasting rum.

"We both came to the same conclusion that we had the skills and the know-how and started looking for a place to start our project," said Erin.

However, like an aged rum, their concept would take some time to reach perfection.

The COVID-19 pandemic trapped the couple in a barrel of pending permits, construction, and regulatory compliance. This delayed their grand opening to December 2020.

"We have to make this work. We know we can," Erin remembered saying. "Even if you don't know it from experience, you have to know it in your soul that it's going to work."

Many of the ideas had to be scaled back due to social distancing and capacity limitation, which Erin says is now up to a maximum of 17 people. Despite this, the couple is now sipping on success thanks to support from family, friends, and the local community's patronization.

Erin cites a lack of black-owned distilleries during her travels and hopes to shine a light on the next generation of entrepreneurs like her.

"People want to support black-owned businesses and people want to support small businesses," she said. "So, even though the timing is not perfect, it kind of is perfect."

But there are still challenges that prove hard to swallow.

"I have no more free time," said Kevin with a slight chuckle. "They always say, 'Do what you love.' I love doing this."

Both have day-jobs that restrict their action at the distillery to only nights and weekends. Erin works as a pediatrician in West Deptford while Kevin works with technology for the U.S. Census. In between the shifts, they are caring for their 12-year-old son.

"It's a lot of work and we're tired a lot of the time," said Erin. "But we're building something that we've dreamed of building for a long time and it's really nice to be able to do it, and we're doing it together."

The Striped Lion Distillery is open for reservations on Saturdays and Sundays. To learn more, visit their website.

And as for the business' name? It's a callback to Erin and Kevin's first date at the Philadelphia Zoo!

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