Bendt Distilling Co. first began making hand sanitizer a few weeks ago when the company’s owners, Natasha and Ryan DeHart, could not find any in stores or online for its staff.
As sanitizer became harder and harder to find and local concern over stopping the spread of coronavirus reached a peak, the pair decided to start making the mixture to give to the community for free.
Though supplies are limited, community members can get one bottle of hand sanitizer each at the distillery from noon to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
“I know that things are scary right now, but just seeing the people that walk into the distillery and pick up a free bottle of hand cleaner, and the smile that it brings to them and the hope that you see on their faces is absolutely everything that we need to keep doing this,” Natasha said.
Natasha said her staff will make more sanitizer for the community as additional shipments of bottles arrive, but for now her priority is to make hand sanitizer for local first responders.
“We're going to do our very best to support all of our local first responders and are looking at making more and making it in much larger batches than we have before,” she said.
The Lewisville Police Department has already received a few dozen bottles of hand sanitizer for officers. Natasha said after receiving a request, the distillery has started working on making more to give to first responders in Dallas County.
Bendt is also supplying hand sanitizer for the approximately 400 Meals on Wheels volunteers in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Controls and Prevention officially recommends hand sanitizer be comprised of at least 60% alcohol for it to be effective in neutralizing germs.
When coming up with the recipe for Bendt’s hand sanitizer, Natasha said the staff made sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines and ensured their mixture contained 70% alcohol.
After she heard Shine Distillery & Grill in Portland, Oregon, had also been making hand sanitizer for the public, Natasha called the owner to get advice for the recipe, which includes essential oils and xanthan gum to mask the smell of the alcohol.
“She was extremely helpful and shared her experience on what they've been doing,” Natasha said. “They gave me a little direction on how much to expect that we would need and she said that we needed to prepare for the masses—she was right. I thought that she was underestimating what we would have in small Lewisville. But we underestimated how much this would grow.”
Bendt Distillery is fully funding the production of the hand sanitizer. Though the business will keep producing the product for as long as it can, the demand has risen more than ever expected, and with it, so has the cost.
“I don't think that my husband or I expected to spend more than $1,000 on this project and it has exponentially gone above that,” Natasha said. “And we absolutely want to do it. We see a need in the community and we want to help fill it.”
She said the distillery will accept donations from members of the community who would like to help keep the effort going.
Along with dozens of other local businesses, the distillery is suffering from a lack of business due to the coronavirus. The business has temporarily shut down its entire front end business, which is what funds Bendt's employees.
“Right now we have about half of our staff because the staff that runs the front-of-house do not have hours,” Natasha said. “So for all intents and purposes, they're unemployed. And, of course, the second that we open back up, we want them to come back in and work for us.”
The business will recover, but right now it is a struggle, she said.
“Our staff has become our family and now they're struggling,” Natasha said. “This is really a devastating blow for us. It's something that we know we'll come back from, but things are not easy for any of our staff, or, really, for us as a company right now.”
Natasha said anyone in the community who is in a position to help support the distillery and its staff can do so by purchasing a gift card online. Gift cards will be mailed and 10% of their cost will go directly to staff. The distillery’s website also has a button people can click to donate directly to the staff.
“We just want everyone to stay healthy,” Natasha said. “We appreciate the community and we'll keep doing this as long as we can.”