Spring Of Life
Hollis Callaway draws on family heritage to create a new beverage
Before you ask, yes, Hollis Callaway is part of that family whose name graces the gardens in Pine Mountain. His great-grandparents founded the 2,500-acre, Harris County destination about 90 minutes southwest of Midtown that’s known for its butterfly house, beach, spa, golf course and annual “Fantasy in Lights” display.
Callaway, 32, grew up near Blue Springs, the natural water source that inspired Callaway Gardens. “My great-grandparents visited the spring and fell in love, so they bought it and a lot of the land around it,” he says. “That spring was the inspiration for the gardens.”
His grandfather began bottling the spring water about 15 years ago, and his father now runs the company that bottles Callaway Blue. Initially, Callaway took a path away from that family enterprise, opting instead for the world of financial operations. But the entrepreneurial itch was persistent.
“I wanted to do something related to the family business, but I also wanted to strike out on my own,” says the Inman Park resident. “So I came up with Montane as a distinct brand of spring water.”
While his father’s company bottles conventional still water, Callaway’s concept is a sparkling version available in the just-water flavor as well as Meyer lemon honeysuckle and cucumber lime.
An eight-pack of 12-ounce cans retails for $5.99.
“I was making healthier eating decisions and drinking a lot of water myself, so it clicked: Why aren’t we doing this?” he says. “Sparkling water is really popular now, and we have a much better water source than some others. I started with about 15 flavor combinations and tasted them with friends and family before deciding to go with things you could find in the South. And part of it was nostalgia from being a kid who picked honeysuckle flowers.”
Montane originates from the same spring that captivated his great grandparents decades ago and still produces 500 gallons per minute. “I can go on for a long time about the unique qualities of the spring and the habitats around it,” Callaway says, “but ultimately, it comes down to what’s inside the can. And that speaks for itself when people try it.”
From his first product run last May, Callaway has expanded Montane into area stores, restaurants and coffee houses. He has about 140 accounts so far, and his goal is to cover the South. But he’s still managing a steep learning curve. “
My corporate background was very different,” he says. “I’ve had to learn about branding, packing, distribution and marketing. I’ve spent a lot of time putting cans in people’s hands and telling them the story of the spring, and it’s been picking up steam more and more every month.”
As the product’s only salesperson who works out of an office in the Switchyards downtown, Callaway has found that launching a new product takes at least 12 hours a day. “Fortunately, it’s something I’m passionate about,” he says. And when leisure time does beckon, it may mean a trip back to the springs where it all began.
“The spring comes up into a pool on the side of a mountain, and my great-grandparents built up the area around it with a pavilion, gardens and diving boards into the pool,” he says. “We still have family weddings and reunions there. But right now, I’m just married to Montane.”
STORY: H.M. Cauley
PHOTO: Stephen Payne