By ALLEN RAU

Staff Writer

[email protected]

Local downtown business Tennessee Hills Distillery recently claimed a first and a second place Regional Business Excellence Award from a pool of local businesses including heavyweights such as Ballad Health, Nuclear Fuel Services, Tennessee Valley Authority and others.

The awards, in their inaugural year, were coordinated by the Chamber of Commerce serving Johnson City/Jonesborough/Washington County. The chamber website stated, “The First Annual Regional Business Excellence Awards (will) annually honor businesses for their significant role in our community and (its) economic growth.”

According to a press release from the Chamber, “Recipients were evaluated based on their commitment to excellence in community and culture, environmental support, marketing and innovation and customer experience.”

Tennessee Hills Distillery and owners Stephen and Jessica Callahan nabbed first place in the “Excellence in Customer Service” category and second place in the “Excellence in Marketing and Innovation” category.

The “Regional Business Excellence Awards” were presented at a luncheon held March 28 at the Millennium Center in Johnson City.

The process of choosing the winners, according to the chamber’s website, began with a panel of experts that reviewed the applications for each category and narrowed the field to three businesses.

Those that remained then met with a group of business leaders for a mandatory, in-person interview which decided the winners.

The “Excellence in Customer Experience” category, Tennessee Hills Distillery’s first place award, “Demonstrated you consistently deliver an innovative, upper quartile customer experience.”

Their second place award, in the “Excellence in Marketing and Innovation” category, “Demonstrated you recognize the importance of improving your performance and operational effectiveness.”

The Callahans’ business will celebrate their third anniversary in May, and their list of awards is growing. In the June 2018 edition of Blue Ridge Country magazine, readers chose Tennessee Hills Distillery as the second best “Mountain-made Spirit”, tied with a popular Gatlinburg-based distillery.

As their awards pile up, so does their product list. In the time period since their opening, the Tennessee Hills menu has expanded to include 13 products.

While their products are available in stores around the region, they are in the process of expanding into restaurants. Recently, the downtown Jonesborough eatery Texas Burritos & More has begun to carry their product as well having a featured cocktail at the Blackthorn Country Club.

For those who visit the Distillery, barkeep Bob Dunn does the utmost to provide “Excellence in Customer Experience,” as Callahan explained.

“The stars have aligned for us to be a successful business and (he’s) one of (the reasons).  Bob is an E-9 Master Chief in the Navy.”

Formerly a tour guide in Jonesborough, Dunn now gives the tours at Tennessee Hills.

“As soon as someone steps foot in this door we’re engaging them, whether there’s a full bar or not,” Callahan said. “We’ll walk them through each of our products and we’ll tell them how to taste it, what you should be tasting, what makes it unique, how it’s made and we’ll educate them about our business.”