Arizona State University alumnus Eric Gichner used his business finance degree to outline a career plan with his wife Jackie Gichner to start their own dirty martini business called Vitani.
“I haven’t seen anything in the country like this, which is how we got the idea to start this business,” Eric Gichner said. “The prepared-alcohol segment is growing, from canned wines to craft beers; I think our prepared cocktails will be the next phenomenon.”
The Chicago-based company got its start after co-founder Gichner realized his wife’s love for dirty martinis was not being satisfied at home.
“Dirty martinis have always been my favorite,” Jackie Gichner said. “It’s the perfect mixture of my two favorite things: olives and vodka. I always order them when I’m out, but have never had the hand to make them at home. So, we looked around, and found that there was nothing on the market that catered to premium spirits or the kind of drink I would want.”
The duo went on to start their own business in 2012 and it took three years to get patented and launched in Chicago.
The Gichners took inspiration from their children when coming up with the name Vitani. The product name uses two letters from each of their kid’s name: David, Taylor and Dani.
Now, with 56 locations selling Vitani in the Chicago area, the product was expanded to a second location in October – Arizona.
“Our product is perfect for Arizona,” Eric Gichner said. “From the warm weather to all of the resorts, the aluminum bottle really keeps the product cool, which is great for days at the lake or to have with you on the golf course.”
Between the two traveling back and forth from Chicago to Arizona, their product is now shelved in select AJ’s Fine Foods in Scottsdale, Phoenix and Chandler, and at the Westin Kierland Resort.
Two out of the five flavors offered at each location have won medals at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
The Cucumber Martini, a premium vodka infused with natural cucumber, won the silver medal, while the Elderpear Martini, a premium vodka infused with natural pear, honey and elderflower, won the bronze medal.
Cosmo Martini, Dirty Martini and Citrus Ginger Martini are also among the five flavors offered in Arizona.
Jackie Gichner said, “So many people have been reacting well with it. And, considering that Eric has a history with Arizona State University and we have those connections and close friends, it made the decision to expand to Arizona easy. It’s like our second home.”
Washington, D.C. born Eric Gichner attended ASU for four years before moving to Chicago after graduating in 1993, which is where he met his wife.
Before starting their own business, Gichner worked in the finance district of Chicago, while his wife worked in the hospitality field before becoming a stay-at-home mom.
“The two of us are actually a really good match,” Jackie Gichner said. “I’m much more impatient, and he’s a lot more patient. It’s a good mesh. We stabilize each other. I’m definitely more of the speaker and PR aspect of it all and he’s definitely more of the business aspect.”
Both said starting a business around liquor had been harder than expected.
“I’m glad we didn’t know what we know now,” Jackie Gichner said. “It allowed us to enter this venture with more of an open mind, and it’s been a learning experience.”
The couple hopes to expand into California, Las Vegas and Texas soon.