New Riff Distilling Names Successors as Founder and CEO Ken Lewis Announces Retirement
On Tuesday, the founder, co-owner and CEO of Kentucky distillery New Riff announced his retirement. Ken Lewis will step down in spring 2024 as the distillery reaches its 10th anniversary.
“From the beginning, New Riff has been about innovation — about trying new things, about growing and exploring what we could do in the whiskey space,” Lewis said in a news release. “In that spirit, it is time for a new chapter at New Riff. Although it is hard for me to leave, I am excited to see what’s ahead and to celebrate the distillery’s successes in the future. I could not imagine a better group of people to take the helm and they are the reason I know it is the right time for me to step back.”
In the wake of Lewis’ retirement, New Riff will be led by Hannah Lowen as chief executive officer, Mollie Lewis as president and Denny Gorman as chief operating officer.
Lowen is New Riff’s vice president of operations, while Mollie Lewis, Ken Lewis’ daughter, is the company’s director of sales. Gorman is the director of engineering and logistics.
“Values and company culture are important to me,” Ken Lewis said. “New Riff is a 100% family-owned business and will stay that way. It’s the only way we have the independence to eschew the exclusive drive for profits, share our success with our career employees, and live up to our values. Career employees give their best years to taking care of our company and in return we will take care of them in their retirement. My life has meaning because of these values — how hollow a life that is selfish and greedy.”
Lowen, who has been with New Riff since before the distillery opened, established the business’s operating systems, branding and distillery program.
Mollie Lewis has been New Riff’s sales director since day 1. Gorman joined New Riff in 2019 after departing The Boston Beer Company in Cincinnati.
About New Riff Distilling Founder Ken Lewis
While working as a high school English teacher in Louisville, Kentucky, Ken Lewis’ father brought the 24-year-old Ken Lewis a business proposition: a one-year chance to turn around a small liquor store.
Ken Lewis turned that small liquor store into a thriving business, The Party Source (formerly named Liquor Outlet), which today is the largest keg beer store in the U.S.
This experience set Ken Lewis on a path in the alcohol industry. While working in the retail space, he successfully lobbied against a Kentucky law that didn’t allow package stores to sell alcohol on Sunday.
Once he decided to move into the spirits production space, he moved on from The Party Source, selling it to his employees via a stock ownership plan.
“I founded New Riff for the entrepreneurial challenge — and to create a world class brand, enrich my community through bourbon tourism, and make a huge difference in the lives of many employee families for decades to come,” he said.
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