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12 People You Need to Know in 2019: Josh Widner

Homegrown Highflier

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Entrepreneur Josh Widner has spent the last six years bringing new concepts to Springfield’s nightlife. Scotch & Soda, The Golden Girl Rum Club and Cherry Picker Package and Fare have his fingerprints on them.

“I’m doing my hardest to progress the city that I come from,” he says. “I’m trying to create cool, fun, safe places for people to have a good time.”

Widner’s not stopping there. He’s building on business partnerships he’s been known to form.

Next up is Best of Luck Beer Hall. Along with business partner Jim Wilson, he plans to open the European-styled athletic club with a centralized court for yard games and 40 beers on tap in downtown Springfield in early 2019.

To manage all of his projects, Widner in 2018 formed Good Spirits Concepts LLC as an umbrella corporation.

“There’s some structure necessary to keep going, and Good Spirits is that structure,” he says.

Widner now is chasing a new industry.

“We love bars, but we’d like to get into the restaurant business,” he says.

Widner and Wilson have two restaurants and another bar concept in mind for Galloway Village or on Commercial Street, along with a food hall they’re still shopping for a location.

In 2019, they plan to launch Good Spirits Food Hall, a roughly 10,000-square-foot European-style hall with up to a dozen independent vendors under one roof. The concept, no longer slated for the former Bistro Market downtown, would be a large-scale, open floor eatery.

Widner recently hired executive chef Clint McCann, from Idaho, who will be handling most of the food going forward for Good Spirits’ properties.

“They’re on the rise and we’d like to get in there,” he says. “I feel like I have downtown cornered.”

Widner got his start in the Springfield nightlife scene as a barback at MudLounge part-time after college. He spent a few years at the bar, then opened Scotch & Soda in 2012, with his brother Rogan Howitt.

A few years later, he introduced Bentonville, Arkansas, to the Scotch & Soda brand, and, also in 2015, created Cherry Picker with Tom Billionis in the Rountree Neighborhood. The next year, Golden Girl popped open on Springfield’s downtown square, another partnership with Howitt, as well as Emma Chapman and Trey George.

All told, his businesses employ more than 60 people.

“I’m really proud of my team and people we’ve curated to work for us,” Widner says. “We try to make sure everyone is happy and create an atmosphere where people enjoy coming to work.”

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