LEESVILLE, S.C. (WIS) - When the state of South Carolina needed hand sanitizer, Craig and Meredith Amick’s distillery was the first one asked to pivot to help during this pandemic.
The Amicks say the S.C. Department of Transportation called them in the middle of March to start producing hand sanitizer as fast as possible. They say after the call they got an explainer from the FDA on how to make hand sanitizer and started working right away.
"I got a call on Wednesday. We got started changing over the facility on Thursday. Ordered everything on Wednesday night and Thursday morning, and made the first delivery on the following Monday," said Hollow Creek Distillery owner Craig Amick.
Amick said his business is small, and only a few of his employees have been working to fill the growing list of orders from the state. However, he said in this case their size was an advantage, and it didn't take too long to switch their business model as it would be for others.
Amick and his wife say they feel lucky they are able to help in a difficult time. Because of their licenses that allow them to operate the distillery, they can manufacture and buy ethanol, the main ingredient in hand sanitizer.
“[The Department of Transportation] had such an immediate need we took our drinking ethanol product, our moonshine essentially, and put it back through our still and recooked it” Meredith Amick said.
However, once they ran out of their own product to use, they had to start searching around the country for more. But, it quickly became clear they were not the only ones looking for it.
"We made phone calls all over the nation on behalf of South Carolina asking for any ethanol we can get because it's such a scarce source right now," Amick said.
They've had success getting ethanol from sellers in Missouri and North Carolina, but are still searching for any drop they can find.
Once they have the ethanol, the Amicks said the rest is easy. Making hand sanitizer just requires a few other ingredients mixed together in a large container like glycerin to make sure hands don't get dry while using it, hydrogen peroxide, water, and another agent to make the sanitizer undrinkable.
In two weeks they said they’ve produced 2,200 gallons of 80 percent hand sanitizer. Their product has been used by Gov. Henry McMaster’s office, the Department of Corrections, and county offices around the state. Other than state orders, the Amicks say they have a two-page list of other health care facilities, doctors’ offices, and other essential businesses desperate for their hand sanitizer.
“Every time I have to put one of those on a list -- it really hurts my heart really,” Meredith Amick said.
They said learning to make something new, the high demand, and the low supply has been stressful, but worth it.
"It just feels good to give back. To be able to help the community in a time and in a way most people aren't able to," Craig Amick said.