Alumni Spotlight-Chris Whitmeyer

October 2021

Chris Whitmeyer

Chris Whitmeyer '11 uses his small business to do good for the community

Chris Whitmeyer graduated from Lamar University in 2011 with a B.B.A. in General Business. He is the Co-Founder/Co-Owner and Marketing Guru at Whitmeyer’s Distilling Company in Houston, TX.

In July of 2002, shortly after 9/11, Chris and his brother Travis enlisted together in the U.S. Army as Field Artillerymen. After completing basic training, they were sent together to serve in the First Infantry Division stationed in Germany. While in Germany, Travis met a family who lived on a small Bavarian farm who had been producing all sorts of liquor for numerous generations. It was then that Travis fell in love with the distilling process. In February 2004, Chris and Travis left Germany to serve a 13-month combat deployment to Iraq. Chris served as a Cannon Crew Member. The brothers returned to Germany in March 2005 and a few months later in August 2005, they were honorably discharged back home to Texas.

After serving in the U.S. Army, both Chris and his brother Travis decided to further their education. It has always been Chris’s dream to own a business, so he enrolled at Lamar University to study Business and Travis enrolled at the University of Houston to study Political Science and International Business. Both worked their way through college. One of Travis’s class assignments was to write a business plan, so he wrote a business plan for a distillery. After many years of research and practical application, in 2012 Travis was able to convince Chris and their father Wesley to start up the first legal distillery in Harris County since prohibition. Whitmeyer’s Distillery is 100% family owned and operated and Veteran owned and operated with an ever-expanding line of premium spirits.

During the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic when there was a shortage of hand sanitizer, the Whitmeyers learned from their various trade organizations that the federal government had loosened restrictions of hand sanitizer production under the defense production act. A couple of days later, the Whitmeyers were contacted by Texas Children’s Hospital and were asked if they could produce 6100 gallons of hand sanitizer to hold them over for six months. The brothers decided to make the switch from whiskey to hand sanitizer to serve their community and donated all 6100 gallons to the hospital. Chris said that the donation was an easy decision because it was an opportunity to appreciate the hospital staff for saving his daughter’s life. A few years before, his daughter came down with the flu and her health deteriorated after contracting croup. She spent about two weeks in ICU and Chris watched the men and women of TCH work around the clock to keep his daughter breathing. “When you see them with crash carts and hooking them up to all these tubes and wires, and she's crying and there's nothing you can do, but they did it. They were her parent that day. And they took care of her,” said Chris. He hoped that his hand sanitizer was able to protect those same nurses, doctors, and medical staff as they continued their work to save children.

At the beginning of the pandemic, the Whitmeyers were concerned that they would have to lay off employees after they had to shut down the distillery tasting room, which accounted for 30% of their business operations before the pandemic. Transitioning to making hand sanitizer allowed them to keep all their employees in addition to raising their wages, and they were able to hire an additional 80 employees most of whom were furloughed bar and restaurant staff. Through their efforts, they were also able to donate tens of thousands of gallons of hand sanitizer to benefit the community. Chris also donated a pallet of hand sanitizer (240 gallons) to Lamar University to be sure that Lamar University students and faculty had enough hand sanitizer in classrooms for the Fall 2020 semester.

This is not the first time that Chris and his company has helped their community. In June 2019, they donated all post-tax revenues from their tasting room sales to Camp Hope, a facility run by the PTSD Foundation of America. It was not just the profits; it was every penny that did not go to taxes. And starting in July 2019, they donate $1 from every bottle sold to support Camp Hope. Camp Hope provides temporary housing to veterans with PTSD and their immediate family members, while also running an intensive 90-day PTSD treatment program. Professional counselors help veterans and their families stabilize enough to return to their communities where they receive follow up care. Chris and Travis have lost some friends who went to war with them and came home and were not able to readjust.  “Hopefully, we can raise more awareness, and more people will donate and get out there and volunteer and help,” said Chris. The Whitmeyers are good people using their small business to do good for the community.