Normally, Christine Riggleman is making vodka, gin, whiskey and bourbon. But right now, the Virginia business owner is making hand sanitizer.
Practically overnight, Silverback Distillery in Nelson County has transitioned from being a for-profit business to a humanitarian organization — an unanticipated shift Riggleman, owner and CEO of the distillery, which has locations in Virginia and Pennsylvania, told Faithwire has been both “overwhelming and humbling.”
“We’re hoping to open it up to the public, but there’s such a demand for the first responders right now that are literally on the front lines of this, that that is what we’re trying to do right now,” she said. “That is our first priority.”
The sacrifice Riggleman and her family is making is palpable.
Since she’s no longer producing alcohol and is instead using all her supplies and equipment to manufacture hand sanitizer, Riggleman said she is forfeiting between $75,000 and $100,000 every single week.
“So when all this is said and done, if I’m able to keep my doors open … we still will have a massive loss from doing it,” the small business owner explained. “But we have the equipment to help, we have the knowledge — we’re master distillers. … We have the ability to help right now and shame on us if we didn’t.”
“It would be wrong not to step up,” she added.
For now, Riggleman said she and her staff are being paid with tears of gratitude and “air hugs” from hospital workers and first responders receiving Silverback hand sanitizer for free.
The distillery owner said she’s received shipments from people all around the country, mailing in empty containers to use for hand sanitizer. One Silverback customer even made cloth face masks for Riggleman and her employees and local restaurants near both locations are dropping off food for the staffers working around the clock to make hand sanitizer.
“It’s overwhelming and humbling that the people who are needed right now are stepping up,” she reflected. “I have staff members that have said, ‘If you can’t afford to keep paying me, I’ll volunteer my time, because I see what we’re doing and I see how much it’s helping and how much it’s needed.’ It’s overwhelming, the response.”
“The kindness of others is inspiring us to keep going,” Riggleman said.
If you are a first responder or hospital worker in need, or you would like to donate to the work Silverback Distillery is doing, please click here.