COVID-related health, safety, and cleaning supplies have become some of the most demanded needs in 2020 and, for many small businesses and organizations, were difficult to get their hands on. That’s why we are excited to partner with the St. Petersburg EDC, Greenhouse, and Chamber of Commerce to help produce SourceStPete.com, a listing of local suppliers. Recently, we were able to sit down with Matt Armstrong, of St. Pete Distillery, one of the suppliers on the Source St. Pete website to learn about their quick actions and lessons learned in becoming a producer of hand sanitizers.
What was the process to pivot to making sanitation products?
The St. Pete Distillery Chemical Engineer came in from Kentucky and played a huge role with the Master Distiller to figure out the process. When the need for sanitation products exploded, a lot of manufacturers pivoted to fill that need. What many people may not know is hand sanitizer must follow strict FDA guidelines to be sold commercially and the approval process can be lengthy. To keep up with the unprecedented measures and demand, the FDA and World Health Organization passed down a formula that would allow distillers and people who had the means to make it pivot immediately and start getting the product out to the hospitals, daycares, schools, and the general public. This means that the final product could not have any additives like gels, scents, or decorative glitter (which is why some of your other hand sanitizers might smell like your favorite cocktail).
Did you encounter any struggles along the way?
Tackling this formula and getting the stills prepped to create sanitizer instead of bourbon was the first step. An unexpected hurdle was finding bottles and misters that were compatible with the equipment we already head.
What impacts on the community have you seen since this all started?
By the time our team had sourced the materials and was ready to flip the switch, we realized that it was more about the community than profit. We donated or sold the products at cost with the largest portion of our donation efforts going to Feeding Tampa Bay in a partnership to get hand sanitizer out to as many people as possible. People were already at Tropicana for food, so it was the obvious move.
There are a lot of people in the distillery industry that are out of work, including bartenders, musicians, etc., so St. Pete Distillery has employed those people in the facility to help with bottling and packaging. These are the same individuals we would normally hire in their respective trade pre-COVID so we are continuing to help them stay afloat. Right now, the team is trying to be mutually supportive of industry friends in the hope that it is enough.
How can the community help you right now?
As the nation, state, and local community discuss reopening, it is critical that people follow the guidelines in place so we can get things up and running again. So many small businesses won’t be able to survive another shut down so wear your masks, maintain social distancing, and take care of yourselves and others.
Is there anything else you want to share?
“Believe in St. Pete”. This city is vibrant, beautiful, and resilient and we need to believe in and support each other. There are so many unknowns right now but the one thing we do know is that we can pull through this together.