Tysons, VA

To combat a nationwide shortage of medical supplies, Falls Chuch Distillers decided to switch focus and begin making their own hand sanitizer.

Branded “Aim High Hand Sanitizer,” owner Michael Paluzzi said the goal is to step up to help the community and keep his business afloat.

The distillery’s new production is drawing the attention of medical staff, who are willing to cross state lines for the product, according to Paluzzi.

For a first test batch, Paluzzi said he and his crew created 300 gallons, which was gone within the first five hours of the release, which started on Friday (March 20).

During the giveaway, he handed out tiny 5 oz. bottles for free to the public and sold half-gallon and one-gallon sized tubs at market value, according to a Facebook post.

At one point, there were more than 100 people standing in line for the supply, Paluzzi said, adding that he always walked first responders or anyone who identified as medical staff to the front of the line.

The first batch of sanitizer is supporting “at least a dozen” hospitals and doctors’ offices, several retirement homes and other government agencies, according to Paluzzi.

A few nurses from York, Pennsylvania even sent representatives to pick up hand sanitizer for them, he said. “I’m surprised they even knew about it,” Paluzzi said.

Curious about Paluzzi’s secret recipe?

“The #handsanitizer is essentially a high alcohol content corn distillate blended with palm derived glycerin and the #doTERRA On Guard essential oil blend that supports the immune system,” a Falls Church Distillers Facebook post said.

Booming business for hand sanitizer

Going forward, Paluzzi plans to embrace the success of his first trial run and continue to produce hand sanitizer along with his locally crafted spirits.

By the end of next week, Paluzzi expects the distillery’s production line to yield more than 1,000 additional gallons of hand sanitizer, which have already been preordered by area hospitals, community organizations and first responders.

Though “this is something every distillery in the country is able to do,” Paluzzi said, he still received a request from agencies to produce upwards of 3,000 gallons a week — a quota which he said is too difficult to meet because of ingredient scarcity.

Realistically, Paluzzi said his goal is to create a steady 1,000+ gallons per week going forward with the help of new hires and facility expansion to an empty business next door.

The distillery’s expansion in April would include an extra 1,500 square-feet just to fill and store bottles of hand sanitizer, according to Paluzzi.

To help employees let go by restaurants forced to close, Paluzzi plans to hire locals who have recently been laid off. “I’m trying to give first priority to those people because we are a kinship,” he said.”We are putting out the word to local restaurant owners — send people our way.”

Right now, Paluzzi said the orders for hand sanitizer are already backlogged two to three weeks out.

As the new supply becomes available, the distillery doesn’t want people lining up. Instead, it will manage orders for possible curbside delivery and pick-up through email, according to a Facebook post.

“All the cash flow is going into hand sanitizer”

In terms of liquor sales, the distillery experienced a roughly 20% decline in sales since the COVID-19 pandemic started, according to Paluzzi. “Sales are down, but not as dramatically as they could be,” he said, adding that the loss in revenue is due to the closure of restaurants and bars that typically buy from the distillery.

Considering the local distillery was at risk for losing a crucial tax break at the end of last year, Paluzzi previously told Tysons Reporter that the future is unclear.

With the COVID-19 pandemic, this likely complicates things further.

To follow suit with restaurants and bars around Virginia and D.C., the distillery is finding ways to sell sealed bottles of liquor directly to customers through curbside dropoff.

Paluzzi is struggling with Virginia legislation that he said mandates the distillery’s uses of a third party for delivery, costing the business so much they would lose a profit.

“It’s a little bit harder than I thought it would be,” he said. “All the cash flow is going into hand sanitizer.”

Still, Paluzzi said the idea is still a work in progress and he hopes to figure out a system of delivery soon.

Until them, customers are still welcome to support the distillery through the purchase of gift cards or by buying a bottle or two at the distillery itself (442 S. Washington Street).

Photo via Kelly Sikkema/Unsplash

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