MISSOULA — When word spread last week that non-essential businesses should close due to the coronavirus, the owner of one local distillery, Ryan Montgomery, knew things were going to get tough for his business.
“We knew very quickly that we wouldn’t have enough money for very long to pay everyone,” said Montgomery, “So we had to make some difficult decisions and lay off most of our workforce pretty quickly.”
Despite the blow to his businesses, Montgomery hasn’t missed a beat. With the help of production employees and guidance from the Health Department, he’ll begin producing a slightly different product than what we’re used to seeing from a distillery.
"The main ingredient of hand sanitizer is alcohol and that’s what we make for a living,” said Montgomery. “That’s what we try to tease out of grain after we’ve fermented it into a beer.
"We try to tease out the good alcohol and leave out the impurities. We’re basically just using that, and instead of bottling it up for drinking we’re using it for hand sanitizer," he added.
The distillery will follow protocol received from the World Health Organization and the US Food and Drug Administration in making their hand sanitizer. Once all of the supplies rolls in this week, production is set to begin.
Montgomery told MTN News that for the time being, the sanitizer will be given away for free to first responders and others in the community who are more at risk.
From spirits to sanitizer, the Montgomery Distillery is the perfect example of how local businesses are responding to the pandemic, making the most of the situation, and using their resources to help the community.
“It’s really moving to see businesses that are hurting themselves and going through tough times themselves, but still finding something to do to help out,” said Montgomery. “We’re just lucky to be able to make a small difference.”