Holla Spirits sets sights on tripling sales

Cris Collingwood//May 12, 2023

Patrick Shorb and Kelsea Strayer, director of innovation play on the delivery truck at Holla Spirits headquarters in York – PHOTO/Holla Spirits

Holla Spirits sets sights on tripling sales

Cris Collingwood//May 12, 2023

A millennial-owned spirits company in York has set its sights on tripling sales this year.

Patrick Shorb, president of Holla Spirits, 1940 Bank Lane, said the company has hired a “seasoned” sales team to introduce Holla Spirits’ vodka to distributors beyond Pennsylvania’s borders.

Chris Herman, who previously worked as sales director at Best Bev Co., Montgomery County, was hired about two months ago to oversee sales, brand management and development, distributor relations, and product expansion for the brand that has grown 205% over the past three months.

Holla Spirits bottles vodka at its headquarters in York – PHOTO/Holla Spirits

Herman is joined by nine more staffers since his hiring, Shorb said.

The company, which was founded “by coincidence” after Shorb and friends drank a “really bad” bottle of “very expensive” vodka at a club in Atlantic City in 2013, became official in 2020.

“We needed a spirit that speaks to our generation – millennials and Gen Z,” said Shorb, 37. “Millennials want authenticity.”

The name, Holla, is a word in pop culture that is a friendly greeting. “It is all over social media and means hello, goodbye in a fun way,” “Shorb said.

Shorb filed for a trademark two months after his Altantic City trip and he and his partner and lifelong friend Matt Glasser started making the spirits in Glasser’s parents’ kitchen.

The two partnered with a distiller in Philadelphia to get the vodka and then made their own batch.

Shorb explained all vodka is made of ethanol and water and they partnered with the distiller to get the plain spirits.

“We stored it in a storage unit and shuttled it to the house to flavor, bottle and label,” he said. “We sold out.”

Shorb said the catalyst to moving from a hobby to a business came when the two met Rianna Walsh of Pottstown, a distilling professional who made a career distilling brown spirits in Scotland.

“She trained us to make vodka,” Shorb said.

Holla Spirits vodka is 80 proof, which Shorb said is what the company’s definition is. Most vodkas, he said, are 70 proof.

Currently, all flavoring, testing, bottling and labeling are done out of the company headquarters. Shorb said he is looking for partners to label the bottles before they arrive for filling.

The company produced between 8,000 to 10,000 cases a year. Holla Spirits is also the first Pennsylvania spirits company to introduce its vodkas in a flexible pouch for direct-to-home delivery and those living an active lifestyle.

As with many small businesses, Holla Spirits was faced with shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We moved back to York right after COVID hit and got permitted just before the liquor stores shut down,” Shorb said.

Shorb said the company made hand sanitizer and sold it by the gallon until the PLCB reopened. Holla Vodka made its debut in some of the stores in September 2020.

The 13 flavors of vodka, which retails for $23.99, are sold in 375 of the 609 Fine Wine and Spirits stores. Once established, Shorb said they made the decision to move out of state as well.

“We can ship to 33 states with our online presence,” he said.

To distribute directly to stores, bars and restaurants, Shorb explained that by law, they must go through a distributor.

“Trying to convince a distributor that he needs another vodka is like trying to convince Cisco they need another paper straw,” Shorb quipped.

It is the brand and the mission that sells Holla Spirits. Shorb said the story, the packaging and the quality of the product are crucial.