Closing The Loop: Philip McDaniel

Dec 26, 2014

Philip McDaniel grew up near New York City, the youngest of six children. He began his career working with one of his entrepreneurial older brothers.

“I was interning and apprenticing with one of my brothers, who had a company that made tchotchkes −  the waving hands that were in the cars then.”

Philip formed a similar business that in partnership with his brother. “My business was in the promotional items that gas stations and convenience stores sold, such as the Hess gasoline trucks and other branded items. It was a fun business, and we did very well. I was able to retire when I was 38.”

Philip’s liquidity event, as they say, came about in the usual way. “A company that wanted to expand into the field made an offer for us that we accepted,” he says. “I had to work for them for three years. After that I had a decision to make. My wife, in her infinite wisdom, suggested, ‘why don’t you just stay home and help raise our kids?’ So, I did. At the age of 40, I unplugged.”

Philip’s four children ranged in age, at that time, from 15 to 5. The family had started coming to St. Augustine while he was working. “I would set Wendy and the kids up in St. Augustine during the summer school break, and I would make a trip to Asia, where we did our manufacturing. St. Augustine had a great vibe, a great arts community, and it was really beautiful.”

When he retired, Philip McDaniel got deeply involved in the life of his new home. He set three goals: “One was to raise our kids; the second was to get in better shape, and I learned how to surf. And finally, I wanted to give back to the community.”

And then, after 10 years of community work, Philip made another change in direction. “I was looking at my financial situation and decided to go back to work. But I wanted to keep with my mantra of doing something that would benefit the community.”

Philip and a partner created the St. Augustine Distillery, a craft distiller of hard spirits that which occupies the renovated, historic ice house near the inner harbor and offers tours and tastings.

“If somebody told me 20 years ago that I would become a community volunteer in a place like St. Augustine, I would have told them they were crazy. If 10 years ago, someone said that I would run a craft distillery, I would have known they were crazy. I don’t know what I’ll be doing in 15 years, but I know it will be fun … and I know it will be something that will improve our community.”