Distillery Namesake – KC’s Boss Tom
Where did Tom’s Town Distilling Company come up with their iconic slogan and what’s the meaning behind the distinctive company name? And have Tom’s Town founders David Epstein and Steve Revare really known each other since kindergarten?
Vintegrity recently had the honor to sit down with Tom’s Town Distilling Co. founders and dive deep into everything you ever wanted to know about what makes this craft spirit distillery the brand they are today!
Kansas City – “Tom’s Town”
According to the distillery’s two founders it took awhile to settle on a company name. Ironically though, both Epstein and Revare had family history connecting them to the legendary 20’s and 30’s Kansas City political boss Tom Pendergast – which made the idea of naming the brand after “Boss Tom” a little too perfect to pass up.
Tom Pendergast – influential politician, gang boss, and cultural icon – ran Kansas City like a game of monopoly during the Prohibition Era. Federal laws had no practical meaning to this larger than life head of Kansas City’s Goats gang. And, with the city government, police force, city manager, and many social figures in his pocket, Boss Tom had many cards up his sleeve.
Under the informal rule of Boss Tom, Kansas Citians who were caught breaking Prohibition Laws and were arrested faced no convictions. Imbibing citizens were let go thanks to Boss Tom’s flourishing speakeasy culture and politically persuasive corruption. As one local college news article put it: “In 1933, Prohibition ended, making very little difference to Kansas City, which ignored it the entire time.”
Forming the jazz cradle with Chicago and New Orleans, Kansas City became a thriving refuge for speakeasies, as the jazz club culture grew. As Epstein and Revare phrase it: “Tom didn’t care about black or white; he cared about green.” Where alcohol and jazz flowed, the racial lines of the time began to blur, and Tom was certainly making big money.
Rolling in booze and blues, Kansas City soon acquired the nickname “Tom’s Town.”
The Tom’s Town Distillery Vision
With a rich history of their own, Epstein and Revare really have known each other since they were five years old. Turns out, Tom’s Town isn’t their first beverage minded business.
A Kool-Aid stand in the 4th grade featured no hard lemonade, but “[we] let them mix their own drinks,” Epstein laughed. A couple of business ventures later, Epstein and Revare understand each other’s strengths and work exceptionally well together. Boss Tom’s legend is interwoven not only with their distillery’s history, but with the founders’ family histories as well!
Epstein’s grandfather actually belonged to the Rabbits, rival gang to Pendergast’s Goats. Epstein laughingly recalled, “As the idea of naming the business Tom’s Town began to materialize, I recall my grandmother’s remark regarding Tom Pendergast: ‘If you can make a dime off that man’s name, you have my blessing.’”
The People Are Thirsty!
Likewise, Tom’s Town co-founder Revare is no stranger to a past with Tom Pendergast. While researching the name, Revare discovered his great uncle was the District Attorney who eventually brought Tom down!
Revare explained, “It was during an interview in prison that the Kansas City Star asked Pendergast if he thought he was above federal law and why he did what he’d done. Pendergast replied with the now legendary words: “Well, the people are thirsty.”
Keeping “The People are Thirsty” spirit alive in Kansas City, Epstein and Revare have achieved several notable accomplishments, the most recent of which was being named as the Official Gin of the Kansas City Chiefs NFL team.
A Toast to Tom
In a spirited sense of tradition, the founders divulge that every Tom’s Town label contains an “Easter egg” of some kind relating back to their rich history and the one-of-a-kind genesis story. The vodka, for example, contains an image of drowning rabbit ears – a nod to Tom’s Goats’ rival gang: the Rabbits.
Like the unbreakable Wild West spirit of the prohibition era, a little lawlessness no doubt still stirs in the hearts of many Kansas Citians when they take up a bottle of Tom’s Town craft distillery spirits and raise a toast to Boss Tom.
Vintegrity is delighted to be the proud distributor of Tom’s Town products; contact us online today to inquire about carrying Tom’s Town spirits.
Watch the full video interview below and get to know Tom’s Town founders a bit more!