Christopher Bently is doing what he can to revitalize the Carson Valley area.
The Douglas County entrepreneur, scion to the wide-ranging Bently family business, is restoring several landmark buildings in downtown Minden, hoping to create a thriving hub and, eventually, bring the V&T Railroad back to town.
Bently plans to transform the silo building of the old Minden Flour Milling Co. into Nevada Heritage, a craft distillery making bourbon, gin and other spirits out of ingredients produced solely in the Carson Valley, including grain grown at Bently Ranch.
“My incentive for any business in the mill silos is to restore and preserve the building itself. I needed to introduce a business that would enhance Minden by supporting the local community and also by attracting visitors to the area,” says Bently, owner, Bently Enterprises. “Originally I had wanted a farm-to-table type business such as an organic market but knew it would need far-reaching support. This became an exciting challenge and opportunity to create something new we call farm-to-bar. As the first estate spirit craft distillery, all our ingredients will be raised on our ranch to make high-end spirits that we will be able to sell not only locally, but across the state and the country.”
Nevada Heritage may become the first craft distillery in the state licensed under a new law passed by the 2013 Nevada Legislature. The building, a National Registered Historic Place, is being retrofitted to Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Platinum standards.
A structural engineer has evaluated the building and the project is applying for the needed permits, including zoning and liquor licenses. The distillery is still in the planning stages, but it may also include a café. Matt McKinney, general manager of Bently Ranch, said the first seeds are arriving soon for the winter rye that would be planted and harvested next summer to make the spirits.
In April, Bently Enterprises is moving its headquarters and 30 employees to the Farmer’s Bank building on Esmeralda Avenue in the center of Minden’s historic downtown after renovations are completed. And Bently is relocating current tenants of the creamery building complex off Highway 395 in the center of Minden to convert the properties into retail space.
“Overall, I am strongly in support of repurposing existing buildings to preserve the integrity and unique history of Carson Valley and will do all I can to keep it from becoming a town bookended by strip malls,” says Bently.
All this should help pave the way for Bently’s hopes of bringing the V&T Railroad back to Minden.
“Since I was a small boy it has been my dream to bring the train back to Minden, but the V&T needs a reason to come here first,” says Bently. “Once we have created a destination, a hub, then I can focus on the train. It has to be done at the proper time and with the support of the entire community. It will also require state and federal backing. We will need to demonstrate we are serious and create the right reasons to support its return.”
Bently’s plans were discussed as some of the first concrete steps in the Douglas County Valley Vision plan unveiled at the 19th Annual Critical Business Conference hosted by the Business Council of Douglas County recently.
The plan outlines a broad set of goals for the 25-acre Carson Valley in the next 20 years, said Eric Roverud, an associate with Design Workshop, the Stateline land planning group that produced it. Overall, the goal is to create jobs and economic growth while both taking advantage of and protecting the area’s history and natural resources.
The county is counting on Bently’s extensive plans be part of a catalyst.
“It’s important to talk about dreams and visions,” said Steve Mokrohisky, Douglas County manager. “People get excited and you start to create momentum.”