Motor City Gas

From their business model to their grain to bottle promise, this small business is determined to “live life against the grain” and provide great products and experiences for all their customers.

Running a small business takes dedication and love for what you do, both elements that Motor City Gas possesses. The owners of this small business pour their hearts into their work which makes this a business worth celebrating.

Motor City Gas is described as a “small batch whiskey distillery” says Rich Lockwood, owner of the company. Their business “manufactures a constant revolving hyper-variety of handcrafted whiskies from grain to bottle, with no set rotation.” This small business can be found in Royal Oak, which holds significance to Rich and Tonya Lockwood. “We are both from Michigan, we wanted to start up a business in our hometown that we live in, it was always a dream of ours” says Rich. While making their dream a reality, Motor City Gas received outside resources to help their business excel. Rich notes that they received support through the Michigan Economic Development Corporation’s Michigan Main Street program, while Tonya added that the grants “really helped them get through this pandemic season.”

Motor City Gas uses their business model to expand and attract more customers when it comes to growth of the company. Rich explains that they “have a very unique model within the craft distilled spirits industry. Most business models are built on distribution first. Selling products out of their distillery is secondary. We are the reverse.” When asked about their upcoming plans, Rich shared that “one venture we are on right now is that we purchased a piece of farmland in Ann Arbor and we are growing our own organic heirloom grains out there. Being farm to bottle has always been our dream and makes us one of the only farm distilleries in Michigan.”

Rich and Tonya Lockwood Photo Courtesy of Motor City Gas


Another exciting plan that has been set into motion for this small business is selling their products in a more diverse way. Rich states that he and Tonya have “signed with a Michigan distributor” that will give them the “ability to distribute products through all bars, stores, and restaurants throughout Michigan.”

While exciting opportunities are on the horizon for Motor City Gas, the owners appreciate the culture of their business in contributing to their prosperity. Tonya notes that “a lot of the individuals that work in the tasting room are also distillers. They have a background and understanding of the products so that they can really speak to them when questions arise.” Rich and Tonya both see the value culture plays in their company and “is one of the biggest things that make it successful.”

From being the only minority woman-owned distillery in Michigan and one of only four nationwide, to being named “a top 10 whiskey bar in the U.S.” by Yelp, “a top 20 distillery in the U.S.” by Travel & Leisure Magazine, and “the Michigan whiskey distillery of the year” by US Business News, Motor City Gas uses their uniqueness to set them apart from other distilleries here in Michigan and will continue to do so in the years to come.