CHATSWORTH — "Every time I come out here, it amazes me," Faheem Ali said as he gazed into the natural spring that provides water to an on-site bottling plant in Chatsworth. "And this is all nature — from the foothill of the Appalachian Mountains — not man, (but, rather), all God."
The spring was discovered nearly two decades ago, and it's the "nerve center" of the bottling operation, but multiple owners were unable to capitalize, so Ali's Keen Water purchased the site in early May, he said.
"Maybe I was the one who was supposed to do this?"
"Nobody knows about this place, and I can't believe that, but that's going to change," he said. "We're going to make sure everyone knows about us."
He's planning a marketing blitz, with a billboard on Highway 225 and outreach to local businesses and partners, he said. "We already have our first endorsement, too," from the University of Kentucky's leading receiver during the 2020 season, Josh Ali — who happens to be Faheem's son — and he hopes to persuade other Kentucky players to follow suit so Keen Water can reach into the Lexington market.
The spring on the 33-acre plot "pumps out at least 1 million gallons a day," but, currently, "we're only able to capture" a fraction of that, so one of Ali's top priorities is utilizing more of the water, he said. "We also want to have a second line in the" plant by the end of this month so "we can do 120 bottles a minute."
Water from the spring flows underground about 50 yards to the plant, where it's bottled in the "clean room," he said. "The water never touches the air."
He's open to partnering with other water companies that don't have their own source spring, because "there is a market for that," he said. "Partnerships are everything, and we have way more water here than we could ever use."
"The water level never goes down, and we just use a little bit, with (the rest) going into the river," said Carmen Campos, who has worked in the bottling plant for more than a decade. The spring is "really big, and I'd never seen anything like it."
Ali has been "in the hydration space for four years," and he founded Keen Water with Melvin Bratton, who was a running back for the University of Miami — and the star of the Hurricanes' 1988 Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma, which delivered the 1987 national title to South Florida — and the Denver Broncos, he said. However, they didn't own their own water plant, which they've rectified with the Chatsworth operation, and "this is the only Black-owned water bottling plant in the state."
Keen Water specializes in 9-plus pH water, which is "like a turbo charge for your body," Ali said. Trace amounts of ionic materials, such as calcium, magnesium, natrium and potassium, are added for taste and alkalinity.
Keen Water now also serves a 7.4 pH water directly from the Chatsworth spring, he said. By the end of the summer, Ali plans to be using the water from the Chatsworth spring for the high-alkaline, 9-plus pH water, as well as the pure, natural 7.4 pH spring water.
"We want to get every client" that once was serviced by the Chatsworth spring "back," especially The Masters golf tournament at Augusta National, he said. He's already sent out letters explaining "there's new ownership, and we want to do business with them."
The taste of the water from the Chatsworth spring is more than enough to convince any doubters, Campos said.
"Everyone I've (brought) water to asks 'Where is this from?' And I tell them, 'It's where I work.'"
"I love the water and how it tastes," said his son, Gamaliel, who is working at the plant this summer. "Everyone loves the way it tastes."
Ali has already brought back some previous employees, such as office manager Reba Barrett — "I don't know what I'd do without Reba" — and he hopes to hire at least 15 more employees in Chatsworth by the end of the year, he said. "I want them all to be local, if possible."
"I want to be a staple in this community," he added. "When people think of Chatsworth, I want them to think of Keen Water."
Despite several ownership changes, "I'm still here, and I really like my job," said Carmen Campos. "I've been praying for this place, and I really believe (Ali) will do it right this time."