Wonderland Distilling ‘working tirelessly’ to meet skyrocketing demand for hand sanitizer

Wonderland Distilling’s incoming cocktail bar at 1989 Lakeshore Dr. Photo by Anna Gustafson

When Wonderland Distilling’s leadership team heard there was a call for distilleries to begin making hand sanitizer in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, they immediately launched into action.

“About a week and a half ago, the federal government asked all the distilleries who could step up to start making hand sanitizer because they saw a shortage coming quickly,” said Allen Serio, Wonderland Distilling’s chief marketing officer. “That evening, our team had an emergency meeting and talked about how quickly we could make hand sanitizer and get it out to the people who needed it.”

And with that, a three-person entourage from Wonderland Distilling—which is opening a cocktail bar in Muskegon’s Lakeside neighborhood and has a production facility in Muskegon Heights—got to work. Using a recipe from the World Health Organization that involves such ingredients as ethanol, hydrogen peroxide and glycerol, they began making gallon upon gallon of hand sanitizer. [The fact that distilleries across the country have plenty of ethanol on hand is the driving force behind them being able to quickly rally behind hand sanitizer production.]

On Monday, March 30, Wonderland Distillery made its first delivery: 60 gallons of hand sanitizer to the Muskegon-based Region 6 Healthcare Coalition, a 13-county emergency preparedness team that collaborates with hospitals, fire and police departments, and other healthcare organizations and emergency management to coordinate medical services during natural and man-made disasters. It was the first in what is slated to be a long line of deliveries in Wonderland’s immediate future.

“At first, we didn’t know what the demand would be like; it became apparent as we had companies reach out to us that the demand was much greater than we thought it was,” Serio said. 

More than 50 organizations and companies have reached out to Wonderland about hand sanitizer during the past week and a half, including emergency responders, nursing homes, assisted living residences, essential businesses that need to remain open during Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s three-week stay-at-home executive order, and juvenile detention facilities, among others. 

Gallons of hand sanitizer made by Wonderland Distilling. Photo courtesy of Wonderland Distilling

Many of the places that reached out to the Muskegon distillery have emphasized they only have a couple days’ supply of hand sanitizer left. Faced with Covid-19, a highly contagious disease that spreads through respiratory droplets—such as when an infected person coughs or sneezes, the quickly dwindling hand sanitizer is frightening.

“The shortage is just overwhelming,” Serio said, referring to the lack of hand sanitizer in the area. “You wish you could have an unlimited supply.”

But this, Serio said, is why his team “went into overdrive.”

“We are working tirelessly to get out as much product as we can,” he said. 

In addition to Monday’s delivery of 60 gallons, Serio expects they’ll be ready to finish their second order of 100 gallons within the next couple of days. That batch of hand sanitizer will go to the Muskegon Heights Fire Department, Muskegon Central Dispatch, the City of Norton Shores, a number of police departments, and doctors’ offices.

And that certainly won’t be the last of it. Serio said they’ll likely be making about a couple hundred gallons of hand sanitizer a week for the foreseeable future. In the beginning, Wonderland will focus on delivering to the emergency responders and healthcare organizations that need it the most; afterwards, they’ll be able to set their sights on the rest of their growing list. Currently, Wonderland isn’t selling to the general public—but Serio noted that Burl and Sprig, a distillery in downtown Muskegon, will soon offer 16-ounce pump bottles of the hand sanitizer.

Burl and Sprig said in a Facebook post that it is slated to begin selling the hand sanitizer, which the downtown distillery is manufacturing, by Friday, April 3. We’ve also reached out to them for more information.

“They’re doing a really good job fulfilling the public need,” Serio said of Burl and Sprig. “We’re all just trying to help out our community as best we can.”

It’s this idea—one of everyone doing what they can to help the community—that lifts Serio and his team at Wonderland Distilling.

“We wish nobody was in these circumstances, but we’re here to do everything we can to help,” Serio said. “It’s all about coming together to help each other during these unprecedented times.”

For those who are interested in connecting with Wonderland Distilling about hand sanitizer, you can do so by emailing Allen Serio at allen@wonderlandistilling.com.

Story by Anna Gustafson, the publisher and editor of Muskegon Times. You can connect with her by emailing muskegontimes@gmail.com or on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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