Celestina Blok Special to the Business Press
Troy Robertson “We definitely wanted a view of the barrels,” said Troy Robertson while seated behind his desk built of salvaged building materials. He’s a 2013 Fort Worth Business Press 40 Under 40 honoree and one half of the whiskey distilling duo behind Fort Worth’s Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co. Robertson and his business partner, Leonard Firestone, have separate offices inside their 1920s-era distillery just south of downtown Fort Worth, but both share a glass window view of their warehouse filled with stacked wooden barrels, each filled with aging bourbon or their popular TX blended whiskey.
“We didn’t think it would look good if we had corporate furniture, so we used materials from the building to make our furniture,” Robertson said. “I just love the Old World feel and the throwback to the ‘20s and ‘30s.” In front of his desk sit two vintage swivel chairs made from whiskey barrels that Robertson found online. He believes they’re from the 1950s. “We make whiskey so we needed some barrel chairs,” he said.
Along with photos of his two children, there are two massive computer screens on top of Robertson’s desk. One’s for a PC, which he uses to crunch numbers, and the other is a Mac, used for his creative work and presentations. “Before I was in the whiskey business, I was in finance,” he said. “So I learned, as most people did, Microsoft Excel on a PC. The PC is here because I can’t make the transition to Excel for Mac.” Must-have work tools include his vintage leather briefcase, his copper whiskey thief, a long tube used to draw whiskey out of a barrel for sampling, and glassware.
“Pretty much every day, or every other day, Leonard and I perform taste tests of whiskey,” Robertson said. Job duties change daily for Robertson and Firestone, and they regularly have to switch gears within a minute, from generating reports, managing inventory, assessing the bottling line and working on efficiencies to greeting guests who pop in without notice because they read about the duo’s blended whiskey. “Literally every day is completely different,” Robertson said. “I think that’s what makes it so fun.”
Leonard Firestone “Now that we’ve been selling whiskey for a year, we literally get 15 to 20 emails a day from people who tell us they are enjoying it or sharing it with others,” said Leonard Firestone. Firestone has the same kind of pallet-wood desk as his partner along with two more of those swivel whiskey barrel chairs. Emails come from across Texas (Firestone & Robertson’s TX blended whiskey went statewide late last year) and from both coasts from folks who snagged a bottle while in town or received one as a gift. Fans also have emailed from as far as China, Denmark and Sweden, Firestone says.
“I spend a lot of time, which is the best part of my job, communicating with our customers and thanking them,” Firestone said. Now that the demand for TX whiskey has grown, Firestone is at the office longer and later each day, meaning his desktop photos and mementos that remind him of his four young children are some of his most prized possessions. He has a coffee mug, clock and small journal all decorated by his kids. “When I think of funny things they say or do, I’ll just note it right here,” Firestone said of the journal, which sits next to a bowl of business cards and near his computer screen.
His daily must-have work tools include his cell phone and his Pandora station playing Van Morrison or Amos Lee. A golf club is propped next to his desk and he says his in-office practice swings are about as much golf as he plays these days. “Demand is growing and it’s something we have to address almost daily. It’s wonderful,” he said. “We’re seeing steady growth in markets outside of D-FW so we’re trying to constantly manage that, which is tricky because all of our bottling is done by hand.” The distillery’s next big project will be the launch of its barrel-aged bourbon, which is tentatively anticipated for the fall of 2014. “We’re tracking it monthly now and it’s coming along really well,” Firestone said. “We really want to be patient with it and release something that we’re proud of.”