By Melissa M. Stewart
When the realities of COVID-19 hit hard, popular spirits Newport News-based producer Ironclad Distillery was forced to close its tasting room to the public and stop making bourbon in the distillery. But co-owner and creative director Kara King says the Ironclad team saw an immediate need for alternative alcohol needs and pivoted production to distill ethanol for use in manufacturing hand sanitizer. The product comes in two-ounce spray bottles packaged by a business partner who owns True North Apothecary in Chesapeake.
Shortly after, they started producing bulk quantities of sanitizer for essential businesses and first responders, but it wasn’t easy at first, says King, who describes family and friends running to every pharmacy and store they could think of to get the ingredients needed to maintain World Health Organization- and FDA-approved formulas.
Kings says that while there are plenty of struggles, the distillery staff was so happy to be in the position to actually be helpful to a community always supportive of her small business.
“I personally choke up retelling the warm emails, thank yous and messages we’ve received for doing our small part,” she says. “What’s more, I can’t tell you how wonderful people have been who have come in desperate need of sanitizer and, never even having heard of our business or trying our products before, added a bottle of bourbon to their order to give us support. It’s overwhelming.
Response to Change: “Sales have been steady, and we aren’t taking that for granted. We have an amazing community of followers who showed an Ironclad spirit and supported us when we needed them most.”
Biggest Challenges: “Having to close our tasting room was a big challenge. Not just for the loss of profits, but it served as the best way to engage and educate our customers. Also, the uncertainty of when normalcy will resume, if ever, and bracing the business for the threat of a second wave and another lockdown, if necessary.”
Best Advice: “Play to your strengths and get ready to be creative. Your business can pivot, you just have to think out of the box. A little bourbon helps, too.”
Learn more about Ironclad Distillery Co. at IroncladDistillery.com