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Detroit City Distillery adapted its manufacturing facility in 72 hours to produce hand sanitizer for the region’s first responders and frontline workers in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Thanks to the support of Pure Michigan Business Connect’s COVID-19 Procurement Platform, the company was able to quickly get the product into the hands of those who needed it most.
Detroit City Distillery creates small batch artisanal whiskey, gin and vodka using local ingredients sourced directly from farms near its distillery and tasting room located in Detroit’s famed Eastern Market. Since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, the world has been in crisis. Healthcare and other essential services across Michigan had been facing critical deficits of personal protective equipment (PPE) in order to keep frontline workers safe. Detroit City Distillery knew it had the know-how to meet the overwhelming demand for hand sanitizer, so they stepped up to the challenge.
Making the pivot and retooling their business to meet the growing and urgent need for critical supplies in response to COVID-19 was not an easy decision for Michael Forsyth, and his partners at Detroit City Distillery, but one they were compelled to make. Suddenly, their event space and tasting room were shut down and half of their distribution business to bars and restaurants was gone due to the crisis.
“In Detroit, when you’re asked to step up and help each other, you do that - it’s the Detroit way. They call this place the ‘arsenal of democracy for a reason,” said Forsyth. “We did what entrepreneurs and small businesses do and made some quick decisions and figured it out.”
In order to start producing large amounts of hand sanitizer, Detroit City Distillery first had to take steps to be able to legally produce it, then once that happened, they had to solve the difficult supply chain puzzle. Even though alcohol is their core business, it was time and cost prohibitive to make it themselves from scratch. They rapidly sourced all the ingredients and packaging materials needed to produce sanitizer on a massive scale.
The distillery started getting calls early on asking for hand sanitizer. Knowing he wanted to get their product into the hands of as many frontline workers as possible, Forsyth reached out to Pure Michigan Business Connect (PMBC) in mid-March to broaden their reach. The PMBC team quickly responded and connected the distillery to their COVID-19 Procurement Platform, created to facilitate connections between PPE suppliers and organizations in need of these critical supplies and services. After submitting their needs in the platform, several organizations including DTE Energy, Detroit Medical Center, Oakland Community Health Network, and others, learned of the distillery’s efforts in fighting COVID-19 and reached out to order supply.
So far, Detroit City Distillery has produced and distributed more than 21,000 gallons of hand sanitizer to health care institutions, municipalities and other essential businesses across the region, including 5,000 gallons to the Michigan State Emergency Operations Center and Michigan State Police. Thanks to the support of PMBC’s COVID-19 Procurement Platform, the distillery was able to get their hand sanitizer into the hands of those who needed it most much sooner than they would have otherwise.
Detroit City Distillery has plans to continue scaling production of hand sanitizer as more businesses begin to reopen and resume in-person operations as part of Michigan’s recovery efforts. The company continues to manufacture its artisanal spirits as well, recently releasing a limited-edition spirit, Shutdown Single Barrell Bourbon, which sold out in just four days.
For bulk hand sanitizer needs, email the distillery at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sanitizer will be available for sale online beginning the week of May 25 at shop.detroitcitydistillery.com. For more information about Detroit City Distillery, visit detroitcitydistillery.com.
Every day, PMBC is helping to connect Michigan suppliers of goods and services with local, domestic and global buyers, based on demand and procurement needs. To learn more about this program, visit michiganbusiness.org/pmbc.