Cleveland, Ohio - CrAv Spirits is the creation of Thomas M. Rini, a former teacher and football coach, now real estate exec “craving” more in life and work and of course, the perfect premium vodka. Here’s his story:
Born to be an entrepreneur
Rini founded the Cleveland-based spirits business in 2010 — not surprising given his family history of entrepreneurism. Rini’s grandfather, Martin Rini, started a fruit and vegetable stand on Cleveland’s east side in the late 1920s. That single stand expanded into a full-fledged supermarket business, with more than 60 stores in Northeast Ohio under Rini family ownership. Called Rini Supermarket and later Riser Foods, the family would sell the grocery business to Giant Eagle in 1997.
Today, Rini’s father, Charles A. Rini, Sr., remains involved in the Rini family business, Rini Realty Co., a commercial real estate development and leasing firm in Westlake, Ohio, along with his cousin and oldest son.
From education, to real estate, to spirits
Prior to commercial real estate, Rini taught health and physical education at an all-boys school on Cleveland’s near west side called St. Ignatius — his alma mater From 2000 to 2006, he was a teacher and coach for the football program. Rini holds undergrad and postgraduate degrees in education from John Carroll University, also in Cleveland.
The notion of CrAv didn’t come to Rini until 2007 while sipping a vodka and energy drink in Las Vegas. Bottle after bottle of premium vodka was being delivered to the table and got Rini thinking about the markup and marketshare of such a well known spirit. He thought, wh'y not package a bottle of vodka with energy drink and call it a ‘party pack’ or create a blend infused with energy drink."
Rini returned home with vodka not far from his thoughts. He found himself “craving” something more — his own business. In 2008, he began researching everything vodka, from distilling to pricing and branding of a premium and ultra premium product line.
In formulating and financing his vodka venture, Rini found himself at the Website of Distilled Resources Inc. — waytogoidaho.com.
Distilled Resources Inc. is a full service beverage grade alcohol distillery that has amassed a portfolio of award winning vodkas, liqueurs and specialty spirits — CrAv Vodka included.
Referred to as DRinc in the industry and pronounced “drink”, the Idaho distillery uses homegrown russet potatoes, winter wheat, assorted organic grains and corn for its blends.
The selling point to Rini was full production, blending and bottling services — a one-stop shop for Cleveland’s CrAv. And, DRinc distilled its products only, which is important in creating a high-quality product with superior taste without having to add additives or sugars.
A few phone calls and get-togethers later at DRinc’s offices in Sun Valley, Idaho, at the direction of the distillery’s branding partner, IGNITE Advertising & Design, DRinc was contracted by Rini in 2010.
Rini opted to go with private label vodka with no wash and no special flavor — for now.
Introducing CrAv Vodka
A boutique brand, CrAv is manufactured in small batches, not mass-produced.
The distillery relies on two ingredients to make the product: Idaho winter wheat and ultra pure water from a 200 feet deep well tapping into the state’s Snake River Aquifer. Distillation occurs once using a four column continuous system that removes any and all impurities. The result is a highly specialized formulation called “Grain-ola”. DRinc holds the trademark.
One time distillation is one of CrAv’s selling points; multiples passes bruises the alcohol and ultimately affects the finish. Of CrAv, the finish has been described as ever so soft, silky and extra smooth — at least this is what tasters said at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition this year (2011).
CrAv Vodka debuted at the Bay Area competition and received a gold medal joining fellow winners Chopin and Effen — before having any shelf space or distribution in Ohio.
With the help of an independent rep group in Michigan and CrAv Spirits brand manager based in Ohio, Rini has more than 50 establishments in Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio, prepped to serve CrAv Spirits straight, shaken or stirred.
Rini hopes to triple customer orders by the time the product reaches retail.
CrAv Vodka will be available in Ohio’s remaining cities – Dayton, Cincinnati and Toledo – following success in the Cleveland and Columbus markets.
Once CrAv Vodka solidifies shelf space throughout the state of Ohio, Rini will move forward with sales and marketing on a state-by-state basis until national distribution is achieved.
DRinc is developing a flavored CrAv Vodka at their Idaho facility now — tastings are underway and initial feedback is “fabulous!” The blend will be called CrAv Exotic and presented in a pale pink bottle. Rini expects CrAv Exotic to be introduced in Ohio in 2012. Other states will follow…
Stay tuned to the CrAv Spirits story on CrAvspirits.com.