Wildwood Spirits Co. of Bothell has shifted their efforts from producing alcohol to a basic necessity many Washingtonians are now lacking — hand sanitizer.
Erik Liedholm, the co-owner and head distiller, first thought of the idea at a John Howie restaurant management meeting several weeks ago. He described how he heard whispers of society beginning to hoard goods such as hand sanitizer and hand wipes, but he ended up laughing the idea off.
The whispers Liedholm heard of were spot on. When news of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in King County spread, the hoarding of supplies merely increased.
In order to give back to the restaurant in which they have a partnership with, Liedholm decided to make his idea a reality.
A bottle of hand sanitizer marketed as “Rensa,” which means “clean” in Swedish, was exchanged for a $5 donation to the Seattle organization, Big Table, which serves restaurants and hospitality workers who are experiencing a crisis.
In addition, Wildwood Spirits Co. customers who purchased a bottle of alcohol in the distillery or online also received a complimentary bottle of hand sanitizer.
“It wasn’t a driver to make money,” Liedholm said. “It was mainly an opportunity with the resources we had to give back to the community.”
Shortly after the operation began, the distillery received an email from King County Metro. KC Metro needed more supplies for their workers who have limited access to hand washing stations while on the clock. A whopping 48 gallons of sanitizer labeled as “ORCA Guard” was delivered to them on March 20.
A statement from King County Metro reads: “As COVID-19 concerns continued to escalate, we faced the real challenge of potentially running out of hand sanitizer for our front-line employees — the bus drivers, water taxi crews, rail and streetcar operators and employees who are maintaining a public transportation lifeline to essential jobs including hospitals. By teaming up with Wildwood Spirits Co., we’re better able to protect the health of our employees and also the community by doing what we can to limit the spread of COVID-19.”
Soon after, the King County Sheriff’s Office contacted Liedholm with a similar request to assist police officers. As of March 23, Wildwood Spirits Co. had placed their production of alcohol on a standby.
“We had to really prioritize what was needed, and we had to postpone making spirits so we can work on helping others,” Liedholm said.
Wildwood Spirits Co. plans to distribute 48 gallons to the King County Metro and King County Sheriff weekly.
The donations to Big Table were limited to $5 since the last thing Liedholm wanted to encourage was more hoarder mentality. So far, $1,100 donations have been made to the organization and 220 bottles of Rensa have been handed out in return.
The hand sanitizer is made from all natural ingredients to include 60% ethanol that is infused with lavender from Liedholm’s backyard in Ballard.
“If we do something, we might as well try to do it right,” he said.