Karl Franz Williams is a veteran in the beverage industry, but he’s now celebrating a first: the anniversary of his ginger beer, created from his grandfather’s love for fresh juices and named after his grandfather — known to the family as Uncle Waithley.
“It makes me really proud just to see that legacy that my grandfather left and he gave me,” Williams said. “Developing this idea of taking care of yourself and living well that was important to him and that passed down from my father to me.”
He says “Uncle Waithleys” is now available in supermarkets like Whole Foods — but fast forward to a busy night at his bar he says watching people enjoy his ginger beer gives him the most pleasure.
“That’s an amazing moment,” he said.
More than a decade ago, Williams took a leap of faith — leaving a top job in marketing at Pepsi to become an entrepreneur and honor his Caribbean St. Vincent heritage.
“I feel very much culturally of the island St. Vincent, but I also feel American and it has been this balancing thing. Of just balancing out who I am and ultimately how those factors play out in my life,” he said.
He’s the owner of 67 Orange Street in Harlem — it’s named after the location of what was known to be Almack’s Dance Hall, a popular dance club in the mid-1800s located in Five Points district what is now Lower Manhattan.
Though Williams bar is in Harlem, the original 67 Orange St was located in the area of what is now a bustling center for justice in Lower Manhattan including the New York Supreme Court Building.
“I feel as an African American person as a black person that a lot of my culture and people’s stories got lost,” he said.
His bar has been open for 14 years and Williams says in that time he hasn’t just honored the past but also helped pave the way for people’s futures.
“There have been a lot of great black bartenders that have come through here and they have made successful careers in the industry,” he said.
Celebrating the community, his heritage and his family.
“It’s like everything I’ve done so far in my career is in one place in one glass. Right? In one bottle,” he said.