E&H Mass Comm Student Story: Nathanial Hupp pours out details of Stephen and Jessica Callahan’s creative entrepreneurship

Posted by Monica Hoel
This is part of a series of stories by members of the 2022 E&H Mass Comm 302 Class. 

Stephen and Jessica Curtis Callahan are crafting more than spirits and cocktails: they’re crafting innovative opportunities for the East Tennessee region.

The Callahans finished together at Emory & Henry in 2011, and in 2014 they started Tennessee Hills Distillery, located in historic Jonesborough, Tennessee. They were only 25 years old. Tennessee Hills became fully operational two years later in 2016 and they haven’t slowed down since. “We’ve grown it into a super regional brand, and one of the bestselling spirits in Tennessee,” said Stephen.

“We love being entrepreneurs,” Stephen said when asked about how he and Jessica have been so successful when it comes to running their own business. This fact has been proven by their success, and will be proven yet again in the near future with a handful of new projects in the works for both Jonesborough and Johnson City.

They’ve acquired an old church building called “The Parsons Table” in Jonesborough, with aspirations of remodeling it for an interesting business concept. Jessica has taken that project under her wing and wants to create a “creamstillery,” which Stephen says is basically going to be an “alcoholic bakery,” with a market to sell items such as ice cream, cheesecakes, and liqueurs.

The Callahans have recently branched out into the craft beer industry with the new Tennessee Hills Brewstillery in Johnson City, Tennessee. This came about from a recent 50/50 partnership with Rugged American Spirits, as they collectively bought the former JRH Brewing on West Walnut Street in Johnson City just as they were going out of business due to Covid.

“We bought it in hopes to elevate the Tennessee Hills brand, and expand our audience from just craft spirits to craft beers. Because not everyone drinks spirits, and more people tend to drink beer,” said Stephen. He also alluded to the fact that they partnered and bought the building in a defensive move to block prospective competitors from starting a large distillery on the same block in downtown Johnson City.

“A lot of people talk about doing things, but we get it done.” That is the mantra behind the Callahans’ motivation when asked about serving both their customers and community. In November of 2021, the Callahans and Tennessee Hills partnered with East Tennessee State University to launch a new program of “Brewing and Distillation Studies.” They saw it as a void not being filled due to labor shortages within the distillation fermentation science industry. According to Stephen, “This was massive; it echoed through the brewing and distilling industry across the United States.”

Stephen said that currently ETSU students can only minor in the program, but he has hopes that students will soon be able to major in the field and also attain a master’s degree. The Callahans’ inspiration behind this move was to be able to build a state of the art distillery to provide students with an opportunity and experience to work in one of the most advanced distilleries in the whole United States.

 

Nathanial Hupp -From Cape Cod, Massachusetts -Brother of Beta Lambda Zeta -Mass Communication maj... Nathanial Hupp

-From Cape Cod, Massachusetts
-Brother of Beta Lambda Zeta
-Mass Communication major and Sports Management minor

  • Stephen and Jessica Curtis Callahan
    E&H Class of 2011

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  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/2369-dave-charltons-favorite-food-project-is-far-from"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,11,428,439/11381_123-1.rev.1654192375.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,11,428,439/11381_123-1.rev.1654192375.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,11,428,439/11381_123-1.rev.1654192375.jpg" alt="Dave ?Inner Peas? Charlton E&H Class of 1979" width="345" height="225" data-max-w="428" data-max-h="428" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/2369-dave-charltons-favorite-food-project-is-far-from">Dave Charlton’s Favorite Food Project is Far From Business as Usual</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Dave Charlton is proud to say he’s been a dancing carrot. “I’ve been every one of those dancing vegetables.”</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Let us explain.</span></p><a href="/live/news/2369-dave-charltons-favorite-food-project-is-far-from" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/1599-brenda-gates-spielmans-books-are-out-of-this-world"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,326,2016,2340/9289_0029_1.rev.1610986720.webp 1x, /live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,326,2016,2340/9289_0029_1.rev.1610986720.webp 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,326,2016,2340/9289_0029_1.rev.1610986720.webp 3x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,326,2016,2340/9289_0029_1.rev.1610986720.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,326,2016,2340/9289_0029_1.rev.1610986720.jpg 3x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,326,2016,2340/9289_0029_1.rev.1610986720.jpg" alt="Brenda Gates Spielman, Emory & Henry Class of 1969." width="345" height="225" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,326,2016,2340/9289_0029_1.rev.1610986720.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,326,2016,2340/9289_0029_1.rev.1610986720.jpg 3x" data-max-w="2016" data-max-h="2014" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/1599-brenda-gates-spielmans-books-are-out-of-this-world">Brenda Gates Spielman’s Books Are Out of This World</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Brenda Spielman (’69) is a writer who likes to be in control of her stories and of how those stories get shared. <a href="/live/news/1599-brenda-gates-spielmans-books-are-out-of-this-world" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>
  • <div class="lw_news_image"><span class="lw_item_thumb"><a href="/live/news/588-martha-spencer-featured-in-rolling-stone-magazine"><picture class="lw_image"> <source type="image/webp" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,385,385/5682_Martha_Spencer.rev.1542729707.webp 1x"/> <source type="image/jpeg" srcset="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,385,385/5682_Martha_Spencer.rev.1542729707.jpg 1x"/> <img src="/live/image/gid/68/width/345/height/225/crop/1/src_region/0,0,385,385/5682_Martha_Spencer.rev.1542729707.jpg" alt="Martha Spencer,Emory & Henry grad" width="345" height="225" data-max-w="385" data-max-h="385" loading="lazy"/> </picture> </a></span></div><div class="lw_widget_text"><h4 class="lw_news_headline"><a href="/live/news/588-martha-spencer-featured-in-rolling-stone-magazine">Martha Spencer featured in Rolling Stone magazine</a></h4><div class="lw_news_summary"> Martha is noted as an “artist you need to know.” <a href="/live/news/588-martha-spencer-featured-in-rolling-stone-magazine" class="link-with-arrow gold">Keep reading</a></div></div>