Harry J. Shapira was born in Louisville, Kentucky in April 1947. He was the son of David Shapira, one of the the five Shapira brothers that founded the Heaven Hill Distillery and Heaven Hill Brands. Harry was the Executive Vice President at Heaven Hill and led the company from the top along with his cousin Max Shapira who served as the company’s President. Together their steady presence represented the second generation of the Shapira Family’s leadership at Heaven Hill.
Harry led the creation, design and implementation of the company's two new modern attraction centers: the Bourbon Heritage Center which opened in Bardstown in 2004 and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience which opened in the Louisville in 2013 on the city's historic "Whiskey Row."
Harry attended the University of Louisville and graduated with his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Upon graduating Shapira served 30 months in the U. S. Army stationed at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia during the Vietnam War. After serving his country Harry went to work at the Lazarus Department Store chain in Columbia. Ohio including graduating from their Executive Training Program. After learning the ropes outside of his family in “the real world of retail,” Shapira moved back to Louisville. He went to work for the family business of the Louisville Store Chain of Junior Department Stores selling clothes and household goods. This was a business that was started around 1900 by his grandfather Max Shapira.
In 1971 Harry married his local love of two years in Judy F. Shapira, they had two boys in Adam Shapira and Ian Shapira. Harry J. Shapira moves over to Heaven Hill Brands in 1973 at the age of 26 and over time is promoted to the company’s Executive Vice president. In the mid-1990s, the Shapiras closed their retail store chain to focus entirely on the Bourbon and Whiskey business.
Harry was most proud of the Bourbon Heritage Center, where he spent time and could be found autographing bottles of bourbon and whiskey while weaving stories of distillery's illustrious history. In 1996 George Shapira, last surviving member of the five founding brothers, passes away leaving the leadership in the caring hands of second generation owners Max and Harry Shapira. Harry’s pet project the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center is dedicated in 2004. In less than four years that same Heritage Center is awarded North American and World’s "Visitor's Attraction of the Year" from Whisky Magazine in 2008.
The Bourbon Industry Returned to Louisville’s Historic Whisky Row with the Opening of Heaven Hill Distilleries’ Evan Williams Bourbon Experience under the supervision of Harry Spapira.
Harry was a fun loving man with many joys, he loved traveling, especially on cruise ships around the world with his wife Judy. He collected small model cars, loved doing crossword puzzles watching James Bond movies and going to Louisville Cardinals basketball and football games
During Harry's years of leadership, the company expanded its offerings from bourbon and whiskey only to a large portfolio of distilled spirits brands and products in all segments of the industry. The company is reportedly now the country's sixth-largest spirits supplier in the world and second largest distiller and owner of aging bourbon in the world.
Harry Shapira passed away in Louisville in October 2013 due to complications of cancer. Harry was inducted posthumously into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2017. Shapira became only the 4th of 5 Heaven Hill Distillery members to be inducted into the Bourbon Hall of Fame behind only Parker Beam, the Shapira Brothers (collectively), and Earl Beam.