Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Kate Shapira Latts, May 24, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries

 

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00:00:00 - Growing up with the family business, Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.

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Partial Transcript: Hello. Um, uh, today--for official purposes, today is May 24th, uh, 2016. My name is Janice Fernheimer.

Segment Synopsis: Kate Shapira Latts discusses her family and growing up in a family business. Her family runs Heaven Hill, and from an early age Latts was very proud and interested in her family's company. The family business was prevalent in all aspects of the Shapiras' lives. Kate conducted childhood science experiments on the alcohol yields of several types of wheat. Latts was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1971. Her mother is Ellen Shapira, her father is Max Shapira, and her brother is Andy Shapira.

Keywords: Andy Shapira; Bardstown (Ky.); Bardstown, Kentucky; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Chattanooga, Tennessee; Civil War; Ellen Shapira; Family businesses; Florida; Louisville (Ky.); Louisville, Kentucky; Max Shapira; Paramount Foods; University of Kentucky; West Coast

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Childhood; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Heaven Hills Distilleries, Inc.
Map Coordinates: 38.244, -85.781
00:08:00 - Jewish identity in childhood

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Partial Transcript: I wonder, can you talk a little bit about the ways that Jewishness figured into your life growing up?

Segment Synopsis: Latts discusses the influences that formed her Jewish identity and how it has shaped her life. She was very active in the National Council of Jewish Women's junior council leadership development program. She also attended Camp Birch Trail in Minong, Wisconsin.

Keywords: B'nai Brith Youth Organization (BBYO); Camp Birch Trail; Chapel Hill; Cincinnati (Ohio); Cincinnati, Ohio; Duke University; Freeman Center; Hadassah; Hillel; Israel; Jewish Federation; Jewish identity; Jewishness; Judaism; Louisville (Ky.); Louisville, Kentucky; Minong (Wis.); Minong, Wisconsin; National Council of Jewish Women; Neil Simon; North Carolina; Proctor and Camble; Summer camps; Wisconsin

Subjects: Childhood; Families.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Recreation; Religion; Worship (Judaism)

GPS: Camp Birch Trail in Minong, Wisconsin
Map Coordinates: 46.096, -91.861
00:16:08 - Jewish family traditions

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Partial Transcript: I wonder if I can take you back a little bit to talk about kind of how your parents, um, in--in--shared Judaism with you.

Segment Synopsis: Latts discusses how her parents, Ellen and Max Shapira, shared Judaism with her. She tells stories of how her family used to celebrate Christmas every year. Latts says on the subject, "there was never a question of our Jewish identity. It was just a cultural thing that we did." Latts discusses how, even though her large family all went to different synagogues, they would always celebrate the Jewish holidays together.

Keywords: Adath Jeshurun Synagogue (Louisville); Andy Shapira; Christmas; Ellen Shapira; Family traditions; Hanukkah (also Chanukah and other spellings); Jewish holidays; Keneseth Israel Synagogue (Louisville); Kosher; Max Shapira; Reform Judaism; Shabbat (also Shabbos, Sabbath); Temple Adath Israel (Lexington, synagogue); The Last Night at Ballyhoo; Traditions; United States

Subjects: Families.; Family histories.; Fasts and feasts--Judaism.; Holidays.; Jewish children; Jewish families.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Religion; Worship (Judaism)

00:27:36 - Female role models

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Partial Transcript: Do you have any female role models in your family that, that you think of that helped you imagine who you might become?

Segment Synopsis: Latts discusses the cumulative experiences that influenced her aspirations and ambitions. One woman who inspired Latts was her aunt, also named Ellen Shapira (same name as Kate's mother), who had a meaningful career in the 1980s, a time when it was not the status quo to do so. Latts continues to discuss the social norms in our society today and society's view on women in the workplace.

Keywords: 1980s; Bardstown, Kentucky; Brown-Forman Corporation; Canada; Center for Responsive Politics; Chicago (Ill.); Chicago, Illinois; Distilled spirits industry; Duke University; Family; Female role models; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; Louisville (Ky.); Louisville, Kentucky; Mary Berrazotto; North America; Social norms; Trailblazing; Washington (D.C.); Washington, D.C.; Women in the workplace

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Childhood; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry; Women--Employment.

GPS: Bardstown (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.809, -85.4669
00:42:03 - Work-life balance

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Partial Transcript: But to get back to your particular industry--

Segment Synopsis: Latts discusses her role in her family's business, Heaven Hill, where she is the Vice President of Marketing. She says that she loves her job because it is very fast-paced and she deals with a wide variety of projects every day, from marketing issues to commercials that they shoot with the rapper 2 Chainz. She also discusses the social norms of women with careers and the dynamics of working with her family.

Keywords: 2 Chainz (Artist); Allan Latts; Bardstown (Ky.); Bardstown, Kentucky; Family businesses; Family dynamics; Hypnotiq; Kentucky; Lunazul; Mexico; New York; Social norms; Tequila; Vodka; Women in the workplace

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry; Women--Employment.

00:50:46 - Jews in the bourbon industry

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Partial Transcript: Are there any industry legends or fables that you feel like would be useful for us to know about?

Segment Synopsis: Latts discusses an industry legend, Bill Samuels. Samuels started Maker's Mark and created a mystique and allure about the brand. Latts discusses the lack of racial diversity in Heaven Hill's management, which she attributes to the relatively small pool of eligible applicants in Louisville, Kentucky. Latts also discusses why there are so many Jewish people in the industry.

Keywords: African Americans; Bardstown (Ky.); Bardstown, Kentucky; Bill Goldring; Bill Samuels; Bourbon festivals; Buffalo Trace Distillery.; Chaplin family; Diversity; Fables; Fireball; Glazer family; Industry legends; Jews; Kentucky; Louisville (Ky.); Louisville, Kentucky; Maker’s Mark Distillery; Maria the Jewess; New Orleans (La.); New Orleans, Louisiana; New York; Southern Wine and Spirits; Texas

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; Jewish families.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: New Orleans (La.)
Map Coordinates: 29.951, -90.07
00:57:02 - Accomplishments and advancement potential for women

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Partial Transcript: Um, switching gears a little bit--

Segment Synopsis: Latts tells the stories behind the names of some brands Heaven Hill produces, such as Larceny and Black Heart. Latts goes on to discuss some of her proudest moments in the industry, such as the creation of the first pomegranate liqueur, Pama. She also discusses the evolution of marketing in today's world. Latts notes that her daughter, Lindsay, wants to work in the family business when she grows up.

Keywords: Bardstown (Ky.); Bardstown, Kentucky; Blackheart spiced rum; Captain Morgan; Elijah Craig bourbon whiskey; Evan Williams bourbon whiskey; Jake Latts; John Fitzgerald; Kentucky; Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon; Larry Kass; Lindsay Latts; Old Fitz; PAMA Pomegranate Liqueur; Pirates; Spiced rum

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Branding (Marketing); Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; Whiskey industry--Kentucky; Women in the whiskey industry

01:07:09 - Jewish values in business

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Partial Transcript: You talked so much about the, the intertwining of family and business...

Segment Synopsis: Latts discusses the Jewish values that her family and Heaven Hill find most important, such as hard work, education, and family. She does note, however, that these values are not at all limited to the Jewish religion.

Keywords: African Americans; Allan Latts; Bernheim Distribution; Bourbon Heritage Center; Catholic; Chicago (Ill.); Chicago, Illinois; Education; Evan Williams bourbon whiskey; Family; Hard work; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; Jewish values; Jewishness; New York; Prosperity Whiskey; Starbucks

Subjects: Alcohol industry.; Bourbon whiskey; Distillation.; Distilleries--Kentucky; Distillers.; Family-owned business enterprises.; Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.; Jews--Identity.; Judaism.; Religion; Whiskey industry--Kentucky

GPS: Chicago (Ill.)
Map Coordinates: 41.878, -87.629