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This small gin maker switched to hand sanitizer and now can keep paying its 16 employees

Distillery shifts to making hand sanitizer
Distillery shifts to making hand sanitizer 01:41

Nimble distillery owners across the country are starting to produce hand sanitizer as the coronavirus causes nationwide shortages of this and other products used by doctors and nurses on the front lines of fighting the pandemic. 

Their staffs have the know-how and equipment required to produce the hot commodity, some in the trade have quickly realized. Steven DeAngelo, founder of Brooklyn-based gin distillery Greenhook Ginsmiths, has been producing hand sanitizer for about three weeks now. 

"We thought, wow, we are unusually well set up to produce this, even though it's nothing like our core product," DeAngelo told CBS MoneyWatch.  

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Greenhook Ginsmiths owner Steven DeAngelo is selling hand sanitizer amid nationwide shortages.  Courtesy of Steven DeAngelo

"Helping keep the lights on"

DeAngelo is selling bulk quantities of the sanitizer to hospitals for less than the wholesale price of Purell, he said. 

Other businesses and organizations have requested their own supplies, too. The newfound revenue stream has allowed him to keep paying his 16 full- and part-time employees.

"Restaurants and bars are more than half of our core business, and about two weeks ago, when I thought about what the next month would look like, I said we'd be lucky to make it," DeAngelo said of his prospects of staying open.

He had even prepared his staff for layoffs: "I told everyone not to expect any work for the next few weeks, and it didn't look good. But now, we are going to be working around the clock next week doing 24-hour shifts," he said. 

Make your own hand sanitizer 01:17

Over the next few weeks, he expects to produce roughly 10,000 32-ounce bottles of sanitizer, which is made following a World Health Organization-approved formula. It's composed of 70% ethanol alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, purified water and glycerin. 

DeAngelo feels he's doing good by the public and his employees. "This is helping us stay busy and keep the lights on during the crisis," he explained. "It feels good to not have to lay anyone off and also to keep people busy."

"The right thing to do"

Dennis Rylander, the owner of Ranger Creek Brewing and Distilling, a whiskey distillery in San Antonio, Texas, is also quickly becoming known for his hand-cleansing product. 

"People from nursing homes started reaching out, and we made our first big batch on Friday," he said.

Rylander has made his own cleaning products before, but never expected to produce them in such large quantities.

"We use high-proof alcohol internally for cleaning purposes, but now we are actually making a cleaning solution for other people — it's crazy."

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Dennis Rylander, co-founder of Ranger Creek Brewing & Distilling, is donating hand sanitizer to organizations that need it during the coronavirus outbreak. Courtesy of Dennis Rylander

In his case, all the product is being donated  "We are giving it all away. This just feels like a little way in which we can give back. From a business standpoint and from a personal standpoint, it felt like the right thing to do," he told CBS MoneyWatch. 

One thing he's running short on? Bottles. 

"That's our main struggle right now. Spray bottles and containers are no where to be found and we realize this might become a challenge over time." 

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