Sunday, 29 March 2020 16:08

Critical Collaboration: How Local Businesses Are Helping

Written by  Josh Veal
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Long Road's hand sanitizer. Long Road's hand sanitizer. Courtesy Photo

“Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

These wise words from Mr. Rogers’ mother have come into clear focus with today’s global pandemic. Yes, things are bad, but we’re also seeing so many people and businesses join forces to help out those who need it. By and large, it seems like humanity does what it can to band together when faced with hardship.

Just one shining example is all the hand sanitizer being supplied by local distilleries like Long Road Distillers, Bier Distillery, Coppercraft Distillery and more. Our most essential services are all running out of sanitizer as people seek to protect themselves, so Gov. Gretchen Whitmer allowed distilleries to step in and help.

While health care workers are obviously in need, Long Road co-owner Kyle VanStrien said nursing homes, trucking companies and grocery stores are just as essential.

“These assisted-living facilities, they’re terrified. They’re scared for their staff and the people they care for each day,” VanStrien said. “It’s something we’ve tried to prioritize. And you might not think of the trucking industry as being essential, but it is and they’re busier than ever. We’re going as fast as we can because it’s a challenge.”

If you know someone who could use a sanitizer supplier, VanStrien said they’re “not afraid of orders,” so feel free to reach out with the contact form on their website!

Long Road is making around 100 gallons of sanitizer per week and working with more than 30 organizations to get it out to “folks who are on the front lines trying to keep people healthy and meet peoples’ needs.”

The distillery has shifted to producing neutral spirit alcohol just for the sanitizer, which is then blended with glycerin and hydrogen peroxide. While going through backstock of a spirit that was waiting to be used in “gin, aquavit or whatever else,” Long Road is also getting help from breweries like Mitten Brewing Co., who are making high ABV beer perfect for distilling down into a neutral spirit.

When asked how people — meaning you, the reader — can help, VanStrien said local serving staff are in need. There are relief funds for employees all over West Michigan, but another way to help is to “tip” your favorite bartender or server. A new website has been created to help you do just that: Go Tip ’Em at

The site provides a massive list of serving staff, as well as their Paypal, Venmo, Cash App, etc. So when you make a drink or pour a beer at home, just toss some dollars to your local bartender, as though they just made it for you.

“It’s a super cool and fun way you can still connect and support folks who need it most right now,” VanStrien said. “And it’s fun! What’s a couple bucks here and there?”

Of course, other local businesses are helping as well, including factories retrofitting their operations to produce protective masks. Chaco Footwear is just one company providing cotton masks with filter pockets to hospitals and healthcare providers.

That’s the big bright side for VanStrien: People coming together of their own accord to help get us through this unprecedented time.

“It’s awesome that we have partners in the industry that want to help out. It’s just one of the best silver linings, the collaboration, people willing to chip in where they can.”

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