Most of you know that our company was founded and is based in our hometown of Louisville, KY. Our little company was born and raised here, just like our family distillery, just like our parents before us, and just like us. So we are often met with some confusion when we post pictures or tell stories that feature the mountains of Idaho or summer sunsets in Michigan. We figured this might be a good time to explain a little of our backstory, and how the people and the places that feature so heavily in our stories, our pictures, our products and our company are inspired by the combination of these places that feature so prominently in our own lives.
Louise, Chenault and Carrie Van Winkle in our Nulu retail store located in Louisville, KY
When we began Pappy & Company in 2012, we truly set out to make a lifestyle brand full of products that we would actually want to use and that would represent what we and our families do and enjoy every day, which is why the places we’ve lived and traveled have played such an essential role in the formation of not only our business, but in the products that we make. Many of our products have been influenced by the cool mountain air and hikes up our favorite mountains in Sun Valley, and conjured up during summer nights while our kids chase fireflies along the same lake in the same small town we grew up coming to in Michigan, jumping in the same brisk waters that have been tingling our toes ever since our grandfather started spending summers here. There are products, collaborations and partnerships that are clearly tied to our hometown and the legacies that came before us. These people and places are so inherently woven into who we are that it’s no wonder their inspiration can be seen and felt in nearly all aspects of our company.
A night out with our husbands in Michigan
Growing up in Louisville, we always had a proud connection to our family’s distillery, and a growing understanding that while our brother Preston would likely work alongside our dad one day, we would have the opportunity to forge our own paths and careers. Yet the history, the lore and the tradition of the company created by our Grandfather, with his dedication to quality and the simple yet timeless motto, “we make fine bourbon at a profit if we can, at a loss if we must, but always fine bourbon,” was the undercurrent to everything we approached in our lives. From a young age we knew we all shared this passion, yet when, how or what it would materialize into was a puzzle yet to be sorted out.
A Boat Day In Michigan With Our Dad
College took two of us, Louise and Chenault, to Lexington to the University of Kentucky, while Carrie was off to the College of Charleston in Charleston, SC. Lexington, replete with its own significance, history and importance to Kentucky, and it’s stunning vistas and endless acres of rolling hills and horse farms will always be one of our favorite places. While Charleston, where it is nearly impossible to spend even a small amount of time and not be spellbound by the charm, the history, the arts, and the culinary wonders it holds, has a magic that has a way of sneaking in and taking root. It’s no surprise then that we jumped at the opportunity to attend our first Charleston Food & Wine Festival in 2018 and were beyond thrilled to partner with Charleston-based, Callie’s Biscuits on our Bourbon Maple Biscuits.
Louise, Carrie and Chenault Van Winkle at our first Charleston Food & Wine event in 2018
After college, jumping at the brief window of time to travel and live somewhere “fun” for a little while, Carrie and Louise decided to head out west, where visions of sun kissed mountain peaks and winters spent on the slopes, lured them to visit friends in Telluride and Sun Valley. What was meant to be a fun season or two before they settled into their real grown up lives turned into so much more. Falling in love with Sun Valley wasn’t hard to do, and though it was never the plan to stay, stay they did. Funny how sometimes those unplanned stops along the way end up with permanent significance. They both met, married and settled into life there.
Me (Carrie) with my husband Rick and our two boys Hank and Radford at the lake near Sun Valley, ID
While neither of us set out with any thoughts beyond 6 months to a year, floating in the back of our heads was the ever constant tug of life at home. For Louise, she knew that no matter where this adventure took her she would always make it back home, while Carrie, who typically has taken a more free-spirited approach to life, waited to see where the wind would take her. So when Louise was expecting her first child, she and her husband Willy set off on the cross-country trek back to Louisville, and Carrie and her family have continued to make their home in Sun Valley. Where a conversation over Christmas in 2012 finally launched the formation of their company that had been circling their thoughts, ideas, and dreams for so many years.
Louise and Carrie with our kids at the beach in Michigan
Starting a family business with what basically amounts to two bases of operations may have seemed (and might still today though the opinions have quieted) like an impossible pipe-dream. Not only were we across the country from each other, and in different time zones, (and with a 3rd sister who began her own design business in Columbus, GA, later uprooting with her business, her husband's small business, and their young family to head back home to the hills), but we had different approaches to operating and communicating and two pretty distinct opinions on well, everything. Yet we forged ahead with the same determination that had led us around the world and back again, and we set up shop, literally and figuratively “working out of our basement.” We also realized that these things that could factor into an early demise for a startup, instead would be the very things that were going to help make us successful.
Outside the NuLu location shared by Chenault James Interiors and Pappy & Company
Capitalizing on our differences, we slotted ourselves into appropriate roles, the same roles we have today. Louise on operations and business and Carrie on creative and partnerships. And the bi-city thing? Well that has become double the inspiration. Sharing elements of our lives from Louisville and Sun Valley is a fundamental part of running a family business together. Photo shoots often spontaneously erupt over afternoon cocktails after a hike or a day spent on “xx mountain”. Family gatherings in Louisville often end up being full of inspiration for new products or ideas for collaborations. It is after all, a family business that was built around the legacy behind the original family business. It is hard not to let aspects of both reflect each other.
My husband Rick and our oldest son Hank enjoying a round of golf in Sun Valley, ID
So, what you see is pretty much what you get. The majority of our pictures feature our real families and our real lives. The children are usually ours, or one of our gaggle of cousins who are in and out of our business, whether they are pulled in as seasonal packers during the Holiday rush, helping behind the scenes, taking pictures of the cousins during family time, or playing along with our “you know what could be fun idea...” game over family dinner. We are sharing the same sunsets, hikes, cocktails, recipes, and beloved products, from KY, MI, ID and everywhere in between, with each of you.
A special family gathering in Michigan with our mom Sissy and dad Julian Van Winkle
We know we are formed by our experiences, our shared heritage, our legacies, and our family foundation. Though we have moved out of our basement, with a pit-stop in between, and now into what we feel is our forever home in NuLu, we still work with the same determination, motivation, and sense that we are are a family “all hands-on-deck” business, and we hope to never shake the working from our basement feeling. We are fortunate that we have the inspiration of our favorite places and faces to always rely on, and we are grateful to our hardworking and small but mighty official crew of 6 in the office, and unofficial crew of many in the field.