LECLAIRE — Since the coronavirus pandemic began, certain items have been hard to find.
From toilet paper to paper towels, people across the country bought everything in sight, including hand sanitizer. Shortly after, states across the country began shutting down places of business to mitigate the virus, including in Iowa.
That is when distilleries started converting into hand sanitizer plants, including Mississippi River Distilling Company in LeClaire. Ryan Burchette, owner of the distilling company, says they wanted to do whatever they can to help.
“We wanted to do our part,” said Burchette. “But making the hand sanitizer was just the first step. Then we had to figure out how to distribute it in a way that was safe for our customers and our employees.”
Burchette decided to team up with Dave Fiebich, manager of K&K Hardware in Bettendorf. Burchette’s business was able to produce the sanitizer, and Fiebich’s store could handle the demand of consumers looking to buy it.
“We were seeing tremendous demand for hand sanitizer and suppliers weren’t able to keep up,” Fiebich said. “We reached out to the distillery to inquire about getting some for our customers. After a bit of conversation, we realized we were probably better equipped to handle the big push of customers seeking supply for their personal use.”
Burchette says people wanting small orders of hand sanitizer are being directed to K&K Hardware. He mentioned the demand was just too high for his staff and is greatly appreciative of the working relationship with the hardware store. Now they can send pallets of hand sanitizer there, and people are able to purchase it.
The distillery then ran into another issue. Most people wanted the sanitizer for personal use, but they were only able to put it in one-gallon jugs or larger. That is when Burchette decided to team up with another Iowa-based business, Simply Soothing in Columbus Junction. That business, known for its Bug Soother product, was uniquely positioned to help out.
“We know all about putting products into small bottles,” Simply Soothing owner Freda Sojka said. “We also have the processes in place to distribute to the web and to local stores, and we really wanted to find a way to help our community during this time.”
Mississippi River Distilling Company is directing people to the sanitizer page on their website. When they go there, people can place bulk orders by the case or in a 55-gallon drum from the distillery. Additionally, they can also find a link to sign up and be placed on a list to buy single gallons from K&K Hardware or a link to find smaller personal-sized bottles from Simply Soothing.
Despite the demand being so high, Burchette says they are keeping up with the pace.
“We have been getting thousands of gallons into the community by distributing to large scale employers like John Deere, the Arsenal, HNI, Arconic and the railroads,” Burchette said. “We’re funneling thousands of gallons to K&K and Simply Soothing too. We’ve only been doing this for a few weeks, so we’re still working out some bumps. We get a little better at this with each batch though.”