Several area businesses are repurposing their mission and equipment to produce hand sanitizer, a crucial commodity during this COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition to Antler Run Distillery in Keuka Park (featured in a March 26 Times article) Rootstock Cider and Spirits in Williamson is making hand sanitizer, as is the Syracuse-based Rapid Cure Technologies paint company co-owned by Seneca Falls resident Dan Montoney.
Waterloo Container is also assisting by providing bottles for its customers producing hand sanitizer.
Collin McConville, master distiller at Rootstock, said the farm cidery and distillery has produced 200-plus gallons of hand sanitizer since switching over its distillery equipment just over a week ago and distributed its first 1,000 bottles on Thursday. McConville said Rootstock is working with Wayne County Health Services to get the product where it needs to go regionally.
“We want to start in Wayne County because they’ve been a great support to us,” he said.
The cidery/distillery is selling the sanitizer at cost.
McConville praised Chris Carlsson of SpiritsReview.com for helping source many of the materials, as well as Waterloo Container and Niagara Label for providing bottles and labels quickly.
Bobbi Stebbins, marketing director at Waterloo Container, said that company has been getting lots of inquiries about providing bottles and so far has distributed them to several local distillers making hand sanitizer. She noted Waterloo Container also was contacted by state Sen. Pam Helming’s office to provide bottles and closures for a group of area wineries that have banded together to make hand sanitizer for health care and law enforcement workers, as well as local veterans groups.
She noted Waterloo Container has a huge warehouse and is utilizing existing stock that best fits each customer’s equipment line and situation.
Stebbins noted the unique situation of packaging hand sanitizer in glass bottles (normally packaged in plastic), calling it “uncharted territory.”
“We’re like everybody else,” she noted, “trying to be flexible and help out.”
At Rootstock, the cidery already had on hand the apple-based ethanol it produces for its spirits but needed to source hydrogen peroxide and glycerol. McConville said they are following a World Health Organization (WHO) formula for the sanitizer that is 95 percent ethanol based.
Rootstock is still producing its cider products and has plenty of it spirits readily available for sale, he said. Rootstock has so far been able to maintain its 12 employees during this crisis.
Unlike Rootstock, Dan Montoney of Seneca Falls — who founded Rapid Cure Technologies of Syracuse in 2011 with Tim Shaughnessy — does not produce ethanol but does have alcohol at its disposal. His company, which produces environmentally friendly and custom formulated paints, coatings, adhesives and sealants, also has the right equipment to produce the sanitizer.
About three weeks ago he and his partner discussed making sanitizer for friends, family members and customers “as a nice gesture” and produced 5-10 gallons, he said. They followed a WHO formula that called for 75 percent isopropyl alcohol, glycerin, hydrogen peroxide and water.
That initial batch was so well received and word of mouth created such demand that Montoney and his partner decided to make more — a lot more.
“It’s amazing how it exploded,” he said, noting Rapid Cure Technologies produced about 3,000 gallons of sanitizer in three weeks.
Last Wednesday, the company shipped pallets of sanitizer to California, Arizona, Winnipeg, Canada and to lots of regional businesses from Buffalo to Utica.
The company, which has about 14 employees, is still “chugging along” at about 80 percent of its core business, but Montoney said this new side production of hand sanitizer may turn into a long-term standard product.
“For our customers at the very least we will continue going forward,” he said.
That said, the component supplies are hard to come by at the moment — everything from the chemicals to the packaging. Three weeks ago Montoney said he indicated interest in ordering a year’s worth of alcohol of from his supplier. The following week the price had tripled and his company was on allocation. Now, he said it’s hard to source it anywhere.
He took issue with the state using prisoners to make hand sanitizer when private businesses could perform that task and keep people employed. His fingers are crossed he will be able to locate the necessary supplies.
“If we can we’ll be doing it for awhile,” he said.