Spiritual aesthetic: Vitae breaks with tradition

Photo: Stephen Barling Photo: Stephen Barling

Vitae Spirits is conscious of its distilling forebears. But owner Ian Glomski has always embraced modernity when it comes to his product and brand, and he hasn’t changed a bit in unveiling his new downtown spirits tasting room design.

“We’re really trying to be forward-looking in general,” Glomski says. “We are not trying to emulate what was done 100 years ago. We are a manufacturer. We are makers. We are not just couch sitters that make things look pretty.”

Glomski, who began making innovative liquor out of his Henry Avenue distillery in 2015, turned to Alloy Workshop to design his new space, which recently opened at 101 E. Water St. Alloy Workshop owner Dan Zimmerman and his team had worked on the original Vitae boozehouse and tasting room, winning a regional design award in the process, and Glomski was confident in their ability to continue executing the modern industrial feel and function he favors.

A nearly 19-foot aluminum bar plays up the industrial vibe of Vitae Spirits’ new downtown tasting room.

According to Zimmerman, realizing the vision involved both revealing much of what was already in the ground floor Commerce Building space and adding elements to enhance what was already there.

“In the first space, we had the backdrop of the stills, the copper to work with,” Zimmerman says. “We used a lot more wood there because we didn’t have the opportunity to expose joists. There was a lot more focus on bringing in some warmth. In the new space, we were lucky enough to have that.”

While the science in Glomski’s process—he’s a former microbiology professor—lends itself to a clinical, lab-like design, the new space features the bare joists and rafters Zimmerman prizes, as well as worn concrete floors the Alloy Workshop team used to highlight Vitae’s industrial aesthetic.

“The industrial part allows for some character and is not just ‘scientific,’” Zimmerman says. “The industrial part references the human touch. Nothing we did was trying to be too flashy or dominate the senses or space. We wanted their product to come to the fore.”

For the additive side of the design process, Zimmerman turned to an aluminum bar and countertop fabricated by local design/build firm Gropen and spanning almost 19 feet of the new Vitae Spirits tasting room. Alloy Workshop also created a large, built-in retail display featuring both aluminum and wood elements to tie together the room’s overhead rafters and metal bartop.

“The idea is to let their product and people come to life,” Zimmerman says. “It’s industrial but not over-the-top steampunk.”

Zuzana Ponca, Glomski’s wife, also contributed to fulfilling the Vitae Spirits design vision. A landscape architect, she assisted the Alloy Workshop team throughout the process, especially as a curator of fixtures and finishes, Zimmerman says.

Alloy Workshop and Ponca also attempted to tie the tasting room design to Vitae Spirits’ botanical focus, says Zimmerman. Like the Henry Avenue distillery before it, the new space features a large, floral wall graphic.

And while the wall art again tends toward the modern, Glomski says he hasn’t lost all connection to the techniques and traditions of old-fashioned spirits production.

“While we feel a connection to old timey-ness and do some aged spirits, I don’t necessarily connect our brand aesthetic with aged spirits,” he says. “We touch on traditions, but we are making new products that have never been produced. I will always strive to be an innovator.”

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