The radiology department might butter its bread with butter, but these days Dr. Turner Lewis was dealing with an increasing number of blood transfusions.
This is the name of the best-selling flavor for Lewis’ new golf-themed canned cocktail company, Four Craft Cocktails.
The resident physician in the West End and physician in the Commonwealth of Radiology launched Faury in May 2021 and has rapidly grown it into an organization that has become less of a side job and more of a second, full-time job.
“I joke with my wife — I never thought going to medical school meant I needed a second full-time job,” Lewis said. “When I’m not in the hospital I do this.”
In fact, on a recent weekday, Lewis had just finished his hospital shift and went on a Zoom call with a distributor in Tennessee bringing Four products to the volunteer state.
Another such deal has just been concluded in South Carolina and sales are set to begin in Arkansas this month. Lewis said he just heard from a dealer in New Hampshire who has ties to the United Kingdom, another golf-friendly country. It follows an initial distribution deal in Richmond and elsewhere in Virginia with Republic National Distributing.
All of this increased Fore beverage production to 5,000 gallons at a time, amounting to about 80,000 to 100,000 cans per order.
Cans of Four are sold at dozens of Kroger and Giant stores, all of Virginia’s Total Wine stores, as well as at dozens of golf courses, country clubs, and smaller markets such as Libby Market and U Umbrella in Richmond.
“Things kind of multiply, in a good way,” Lewis said.
Lewis, 47, said the idea for Fore began in the early days of the pandemic, when many X-rays and MRIs were put on hold because the planet was too far away from society.
Like many during those times, he was helping homeschool his three kids and playing golf more than usual while enjoying a few cocktails. Then he decided not to let his idle hands take any diabolical turns.
“In this pandemic, I’ve had too much free time on my hands,” he said. “I went to the rabbit hole to find out why there were no golf-branded cocktails.”
He was particularly interested in marketing his favorite golf drink, Transfusion. It is a mixture of vodka, ginger, grape juice, and lemon. He said a lot of bartenders on golf courses would mix one for you, but he sought to make a consistent recipe and he could.
From there he found the House of Flavors, where the companies’ concoctions are being developed by a third party. He also passed the red tape for Virginia ABC’s wholesaler and importer licenses and hired a trademark agency to name the company and brand the tagline: “Drink like a golfer.”
The first shipment of transfusion boxes in May 2021 were 500 cases or 24,000 boxes made at a facility in Wisconsin.
“I flew in and drove Penske back because I was booting it up,” Lewis said.
He stored that first order in his garage and had to get his wife to help him unload the bags one by one because the truck had no tailgate, and as a radiologist, he didn’t need to have a forklift. .
“That was the one thing I didn’t think of beforehand,” he laughed. “I never made that mistake again.”
At first, he and his wife traveled across the state promoting his brand of Transfusion drinks, setting up sales pitches at golf courses, mini markets, and even at Topgolf.
Libbie Market in Richmond was the first shop to make purchases and Belmont Golf Course was the first course. He said single-handedly before his first distribution deal, he was able to earn business around 50 stores and golf courses. He said Providence Golf Course in Chesterfield and The Hollows in Montpellier are among his biggest clients these days.
“I’m certainly not a seller,” he said, “but it sure resonated with people who know golf or know the brew.” “We quickly received the feedback that we had something great here.”
The company’s momentum may also be fueled by the recent popularity of canned cocktails. Lewis said he was told he had inadvertently entered one of the fastest growing segments of the alcoholic beverage industry.
“The consultants said, I stumbled on the hot market,” Lewis said. “All brewers are trying to get into this space. It is thriving.”
Louis Richmonder isn’t the only one involved in the canned liquor business. Local yacht rock band Three Sheets to the Wind recently launched their own brand of canned wine, Steely Can.
Riding this tailwind and with production and distribution now, Lewis said he’s focused on creating new flavors for a full range of Four brews, beyond just the transfer process.
His lively version of Arnold Palmer will hit the market soon and he’s working with the folks at the flavor house on Bloody Mary and Azalea. The latter is made with vodka, lime juice, and pomegranate juice, he said, and was popularized at Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters.
He hopes the expanded line will help his distributors in various states deliver drinks to larger chains, with Target and Walmart on his wish list.
Lewis also wants to land in golf-heavy states like Florida and Arizona, to fight off seasonal ups and downs.
“Seasonality in the world of drinks is something I’ve learned about. We want warm golf courses all year round.
For now, it’s going to continue to be a one-man company, Lewis said. He will rely on himself to invent new drinks and a lot of brands, while allowing distributors and production people to do what they do.
He said that each production run cost him $20,000 to $40,000 and that any money made went straight back to the business.
“I don’t take the investment,” Lewis said. “But I had a lot of people who wanted to get involved.”
Lewis has worked as a non-stop doctor since graduating from Virginia Medical School (VCU) in 2001. He has said that over the years he hasn’t had the time to play golf as much as he likes but mainly plays at Belmont and Virginia Country Club when he gets the chance.
He said an immediate release — in addition to scratching the entrepreneurship itch he said had always been there — helped him spend more time on the golf course.
“I’ve met a lot of interesting people and played a lot of golf,” he said of his time selling drinks. “It’s the first time my wife has said, ‘Go play golf, you need to do some networking. “
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