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Panther Distillery owner buys historic Wedum building

Adrian Panther (left), owner of Panther Distillery in Osakis, stands by the Wedum building in Alexandria he purchased last month. With him are distillers Anthony Noetzelman and Brett Grinager. Photo by Al Edenloff, Osakis Review1 / 3
Some of the ceilings inside the Wedum building were lined with cork to keep rooms cool for the eggs and milk that were stored there when it served as a creamery. Photo by Al Edenloff, Osakis Review2 / 3
One of the rooms in the Wedum building is filled with debris, reportedly from a boiler explosion that happened decades ago.3 / 3

A landmark Alexandria building brimming with history will soon serve a new purpose – storing whiskey barrels.

The old Wedum Supply building on Nokomis Street was recently sold to Adrian Panther, the owner of Panther Distillery in Osakis, for $90,000.

He plans to use the massive space in the historic structure to store 10,000 to 15,000 white oak barrels of whiskey.

“The name of the game in the whiskey business is storage,” Panther said. “You’ve got to put the whiskey somewhere to age and mellow.”

The building, which realtor Kevin Mahoney described as a masonry fortress, was just what Panther was looking for – 37,000 square feet spread over three floors and a basement; thickly insulated concrete walls; a convenient, secure location in Alexandria; and, of course, the fascinating history that comes with a 108-year-old building.

“It’s classy, it’s old and it’s a nice piece of Alexandria’s history,” Panther said.

Panther Distillery’s main location in Osakis won’t change. That’s where the whiskey is made and tours and tastings take place.

“We are doing well in Osakis,” Panther said. “The city has been fantastic to us and it has that tourism aspect going for it.”

The Osakis site was simply running out of space to store the whiskey, which needs to age in new, charred, American oak barrels for at least two years to be labeled as bourbon.

Finding a big enough storage space wasn’t easy and building a new warehouse would have been a costly and lengthy process, Panther said.

“It’s takes a lot to put up a brand new building,” he said. “You have to break ground, do the dirt work, build it, sprinkler it. … This is already built and ready to go.”

Last week, Panther and his distillers, Anthony Noetzelman and Brett Grinager, were exploring all the nooks and crannies in the massive building, figuring out where things should go and how to get the building ready.

“There’s a lot of clean-up to do,” Panther said. “It’ll take us about six months before we start moving things in.”

In the meantime, the walls remain steeped in history. While giving a tour to a reporter, Panther pointed out several highlights:

• A small freight elevator that provides access to the basement and three other floors.

• Walls and ceilings that were lined with cork to keep the temperatures cooler for the milk and eggs that were stored there.

• A massive air conditioning unit that Panther heard was the first of its kind in Minnesota.

• Bullet holes riddling the red and yellow-painted walls of a room once used as a shooting range.

• A small room filled, almost to the ceiling, with scattered debris from a boiler explosion decades ago.

Panther has yet to come across a rumored “secret tunnel” that supposedly leads to a house next door where the Wedum family lived.

But he’s heard fascinating bits of the building’s history from local residents who had relatives or friends that worked there generations ago.

The stories have inspired Panther. He plans to restore the building’s brickwork exterior and respect its historical significance.

“We’re going to keep those stories alive,” he said.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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