Mark Nigbur has a great job – making Altius Vodka in Colorado Springs.
He and his business partner, Brian Peterson, started Colorado’s first and only vodka distillery business, Pure Distilleries, in August, operating out of a warehouse near Interstate 25 and Circle Drive.
Before making vodka, Nigbur had another great job, manufacturing hockey equipment for the National Hockey League, a job that allowed him to hobnob with the sport’s most high-profile personalities.
But when NHL players announced last year that they were going on strike, the hockey industry began losing its lucrative luster.
Nigbur was on a plane when he read a magazine article about the few small distilleries in America.
He was struck with the idea of opening a vodka distillery in Colorado Springs and drew up a business plan on cocktail napkin.
Nigbur later pitched the idea to Peterson, and the two wrote a more formal business plan on the back of a coaster from The Warehouse brewery and restaurant.
A year and a half later, their idea became a reality.
Pure Distilleries is producing 20 cases of Altius Vodka a day. The product is available at bars and on liquor store shelves around the state, and the Altius team has a vision to go global.
Nigbur took time recently to tell CSBJ about himself and his business.
Organization: Pure Distilleries LLC
Hometown: Colorado Springs
How long have you lived in Colorado Springs: Since 1960
Education: Degree in police science from Pikes Peak Community College.
A few words about your company: Pure Distilleries is the first and only vodka distillery in the state of Colorado. Currently we are the producers of Altius Vodka, the only ultra premium vodka made in the state. Other vodkas are branding themselves as “Colorado vodkas” but we’re the only distillery making vodka in Colorado. Everything from our deep rock water to our grains comes from local sources.
Recent accomplishments: Starting Pure Distilleries from the ground up. It took nearly a year to get a license from The Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms. There’s an extensive background check process.
Biggest career break: Meeting other co-owner Brian J. Peterson
The toughest part of your job: Opening new markets out of state. Each state has a different set of requirements. For instance, in Oregon, the state buys the alcohol from you and then sells it themselves.
Someone you admire: My parents for giving me the drive to succeed in life and Richard Branson of Virgin Records. He wears blue jeans and he’s got long hair. He has a laid-back attitude, but he’s very enterprising. Everything he touches turns to gold.
About your family: I’ve been married for 19 years to wife, Lorraine. I have a son, Cory, who is 19, and two daughters Kenzy, 11, and Zoey, 6.
Something else you’d like to accomplish: Bringing Altius Vodka and other products of Pure Distilleries to the worldwide market.
How your business will change in the next decade: It can only get bigger. We are looking at opening in five more states by spring and then the rest of the world.
What book are you currently reading? “Freakonomics”
What is the one thing you would change about Colorado Springs? More bars for more business.