For Russell Fletcher, business and community go hand in hand, perhaps even more so during a time of uncertainty.
Fletcher is the founder of This Life Forever, LLC and is the creator of Mishka Vodka. He describes the spirit as the “first sipping vodka,” which doesn’t need to be diluted and can be enjoyed either by itself or mixed in cocktails.
There are honey and cranberry variations currently on the market and the formulas are gluten-free, low in calories, all-natural and contain no artificial sweeteners.
Fletcher first started learning the process of wine making as a side hobby while he still worked in the entertainment industry. Supply chain issues soon forced him to expand past wine making, and he then decided he didn’t want to enter the nursing profession as he became more and more interested in the art of formulating different spirits.
That passion eventually led to a new full-time business venture, and Fletcher began to set his sights on spirits success.
That success came in 2015 when he first entered the World Spirits Competition. By 2018, his formulas won him gold and silver recognition at the premier awards in the industry and he felt that he had been recognized within the business as someone to take seriously.
After this he decided to move from the Landsford space they had been renting into a location in the Lehigh Valley. Mishka vodkas are now distilled entirely in Allentown, a location Fletcher is proud to live and work in.
“The aim was definitely Allentown,” said Fletcher. He points to Allentown as the “heart of the Lehigh Valley” and said the area’s growing restaurant and dining scene has been one of the largest drivers of his business, which has flourished in the past few years as a provider of spirits to restaurants and Fine Wine and Good Spirit stores.
Fletcher’s commitment to Allentown and surrounding communities goes beyond the business deals he has secured and the work he does with the Chamber of Commerce. He lives and works with the belief that you should always look to give to an area as you take from it, and that came full circle when he saw a need for hand sanitizer due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Allentown distillery, upon getting the greenlight from Governor Wolf to shift to sanitizer production, immediately got to work. Within 48 hours, according to Fletcher, the formula was ready for testing and subsequent production.
While This Life Forever sells sanitizer through its contracts with the regional United States Postal Service and Lehigh Valley Health Network, among other businesses, it has also donated almost two tons of sanitizer to nonprofits and other groups who have expressed a need for supplies throughout the Lehigh Valley. They hope to also partner with local school districts to donate supplies to families as schools look to return to in-person education.
To Fletcher the focus on community is a no-brainer and something he will remain committed to as the brand continues to grow.
“If you invest a little in a community, and add something to it, it will pay dividends,” said Fletcher.
Before the outbreak of COVID-19 forced the shutdown of most major markets and nearly all restaurants, Fletcher had secured deals with several top names in the nightlife and hospitality industries that would’ve put Mishka vodkas in various hotels and resorts in seven states including New York and Florida.
Some of the deals have fallen apart in light of recent events but Fletcher said he is confident that the brand will begin to expand across the country once the nation regains a sense of normalcy. For now, he said he continues to work with restaurants on discount programs to keep the products in places that are open across the Lehigh Valley and also on store shelves for the “at-home drinker” who isn’t going to bars and restaurants.
Even as the brand begins to grow nationally, Fletcher said he will remain committed to the area the business is based in.
“We want to continue to be a part of the valley,” Fletcher said, adding that he has no plans to “suck the valley dry then leave.”
Mishka vodkas are available in restaurants across the Lehigh Valley and at select Fine Wine and Good Spirits stores. For more information visit https://mishkapremiumvodka.com/