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Hand Sanitizer Still A Successful Product For Re-imagined Tallahassee Businesses

Scenes of Proof Brewing Company's hand sanitizer operation.
Proof Brewing Company
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Proof Brewing Company's Byron Burroughs was among the first to start making alcohol-based hand sanitizer when the coronavirus shut down his very popular brew-pub.

"Well, we're still producing beer. We still have a very robust retail model with package beer. But we have a lot of space and tank capacity and an absolutely brilliant brew staff that have been adaptive to greatly produce the level of where we are production-wise so that we should be able to meet all demands; locally we hope as well as donating methodologies locally and really making a difference."

From the very start of the transition, Burroughs said his concept was that it was every bit as important to give the new product away as it was to sell it.

"We've now increased our production, which is now coming on line, which will not only allow us to sell at a reasonable price to the market, but also to increase our donating methodology to first responders and non-profits and those in need who are having a hard time getting this very vital product."

That same model of converting at least some alcohol beverage production to hand sanitizer is being used by Ology Brewing, where Nick Walker is the guy in charge.

"Just selling or giving away to our customers with orders through our curbside services and we are continuing to do that. But we've got a tanker in of ethanol and we've been processing that. We've got a contract with the state that we've been fulfilling and we've sent just over 4,000 gallons. Currently we've got more on that front and we're still on line as well to the community and shipping actually throughout the U.S."

Eric Graban diversified his business, too. He's the founder of Tallahassee's Quarry-Bio. Usually it does complex bio-chemical analysis of potential pharmaceuticals. But Graben found his firm in between contracts when the pandemic hit.

"We have been going just about flat out the whole time having hand sanitizer requests coming from all around Tallahassee and the surrounding region; Panama City, Southern Georgia. We've been shipping it throughout the state for a number of state agencies and health clinics around the state."

Ology's Nick Walker was happy his firm found a niche to keep the operation going and its workers on the payroll while so many other companies had fewer options.

"We may stop producing this (sanitizer) tomorrow or next week. But currently we're going to keep producing it so that there's enough for people to be safe. It's different for our business from a taproom standpoint, but we're very thankful for Tallahassee supporting us."

Quarry-Bio's Eric Graban believed the changes wrought by the virus may permanently transform the business landscape.

"For instance, from a supply chain perspective, an enormous amount of time and energy has been spent to make sure we can get the alcohol that we need; that we can find bottles. I mean, bottles are scarce worldwide right now and who would have ever thought about that? And then you look at regulatory agencies and see the way that state and federal governments are stepping up. Processes that used to take months or years, I'm getting approvals in eighteen hours!"

In the shorter term, Proof's Byron Burroughs simply hoped the larger community - which includes his business - will come out relatively okay.

"Everyone just needs to continue following social distancing, protect yourself as much as possible, stay healthy. And as much as you can, take care of and support those small businesses in your local community as long as it's affordable, because they really are the lifeblood of the local community and there are a lot of people who are struggling and hurting right now."

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