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Life & Work with Megan Campbell of Downtown

Today we’d like to introduce you to Megan Campbell.

Alright, thank you for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us how you got started?
I first fell in love with the alcohol industry in 2013. Cocktails were a window into a world of flavor and complexity I had never known. Eventually, I felt I needed to grow in the industry and started working at a local distillery in Peoria, AZ. There I learned about the distillation process and began to teach myself about the art of infusion and the rich history of alcohol culture, creation, and consumption. I worked there for 3 years, meeting my boyfriend and some of my closest friends and getting to know my community. Eventually, we were offered the opportunity to purchase the distillery but felt it was too limiting. The idea of business ownership, though, was firmly planted. In late 2019, we secured the business plan and financials and began searching for a location. Time and time again, we thought we had found it, but due to liquor license restrictions and uncertainty, it was much more challenging to move forward. Throughout the pandemic, we continued to search before finally finding our location in Downtown Phoenix. Now, licensing permitting, we are mere weeks away from opening at last!

We all face challenges, but looking back, would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
When I first began considering opening our distillery, my boss reminded me that he was 8-9 years in the making, from concept to opening. In that regard, I consider myself fortunate that we are only at 3-4 years of actively working towards this goal. The barrier to entry in the alcohol production industry is tremendous, particularly for someone like myself who is younger and less financially secure. We are licensed at the Federal, State, and City level, each with different requirements and concerns. As we sought our location, we had to consider a mind-blowing amount of regulations and rules that disqualify almost all average commercial real estate. We also had to contend that you must sign a lease before applying for any of your licensing, which is a massive risk to a new business. On a personal level, it has been a huge broadening of horizons. I originally started bartending to get out of my shell and learn how to talk to strangers. Lately, I’ve found that networking is the only way I can move our business forward (as we wait for construction and licensing). Socially and Emotionally, this is exhausting but fruitful work. Becoming better at this kind of social engagement is also extremely validating, something I would never have dreamed of 10 years ago when I decided to go down this path.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar, what can you tell them about what you do?
The most frequent compliment I get is on my passion. It is what got me a job at the distillery, to begin with, and it drove me to learn as much as I could about this ‘hidden world’ of alcohol that I had never been exposed to. Alcohol is the perfect carrier of flavor and captures it as truly as possible. While I love the distillation process, my real passion and specialty are in infusions, the art of adding different fruits, spices, herbs, and more to capture their flavor. Where many people see one flavor (e.g., blackberry), I see that there has to be much more to create something incredible (vanilla, lemon, ginger). What is wonderful about Turquoise Sky is that it gives me the platform to provide this for other people. I can create amazing combinations that I would never have chosen because they were not to my taste. It also allows me to practice my graphic design work. As we do the labels in-house, I can create distinct and beautiful labels for clients in styles I would never have thought of if I did everything to my taste. I’ve frequently found the most frustrating thing about distilleries is the lack of diversity and variety. When one person is in charge of what is delicious and aesthetically pleasing, the boundaries will rarely get pushed, and new things won’t be that exciting. That can’t happen at Turquoise Sky.

Is something surprising that you feel even people who know you might not know about?
That is a complicated question since I feel like a very open book. The only thing I can think of is that I was not raised around alcohol. My parents were very young when they had my brother and me and never really had the opportunity to explore it the way most young people do. Consequently, the only time we had alcohol in the house or saw people inebriated was during the yearly company Christmas parties held at our house. I had my first sip of alcohol at 19 (sweet tea, vodka, and lemonade, I wouldn’t say I liked it) and did not start drinking until I was 22. I am also extremely wary of alcohol and careful about healthy and safe consumption. When you hear ‘distiller,’ most people think I drink 24/7 and never turn one down. While we certainly drink frequently, I am careful never to engage with alcohol when feeling negative, and we often take time off from drinking to ‘re-set’ and make sure we are using it responsibly. I’m also very proud to say that our home is a comfortable space for people who no longer drink. Alcohol is not for everybody, and pressuring or questioning someone who has chosen not to use it (either temporarily or permanently) is cruel. You don’t have to drink to have a good time, and you certainly don’t have to drink alcohol at my house to have something delicious and fun.

Pricing:

  • Single Flavor Vodka Bottle – $30
  • Single Flavor Bourbon Bottle – $40
  • Specialty Vodka Bottle – $40
  • Specialty Bourbon Bottle – $45
  • Flights of 4 – $20

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