Science teacher-turned-distiller Matt Frohman and his two partners have been facing one challenge after another at their business on Ann Street in Newburgh.
Restrictions on restaurants, imposed as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) began its spread, disrupted Frohman’s business model just three days after he opened his new distillery, Spirits Lab. The restrictions required him to close Spirits Lab’s tasting room, and move to only offering delivery and takeout sales of his vodka, gin and bourbon.
To blunt the impact of this sudden change, Frohman started offering another item.
“Four-ounce bottles of hand sanitizer, which is within CDC regulations,” Frohman detailed, as he neatly lined up the newly labeled bottles next to larger bottles of his signature vodka and fiery passion cocktail.
After posting about his new offering on social media, Frohman started getting receiving orders, so many that he would need to reload on a certain component.
Frohman had plenty of ethanol, a key ingredient in hand sanitizer, but could not get the other key ingredient: aloe.
“Aloe is like gold,” Frohman said, alluding to overcharging on the internet.
During calmer times, aloe would be readily available in-store or online for less than $10 a gallon. Currently, though, several online sellers and auction sites list aloe for $40 to $60.
“[That] is gouging,” Frohman said. “Which is a shame.”
Frohman recently connected with the owners of Field Trip, a craft store on Liberty Street, to learn they also produce hand sanitizer. As it turned out, FieldTrip had plenty of aloe and scents to make the product, but had difficulty getting ethanol.
It just made sense.
They donated their first two several-gallon batches to Newburgh’s police and fire departments, and often waive charges for people with respiratory conditions.
When Spectrum News arrived to Spirits Lab Tuesday morning, the newfound business partners were working on a new batch of green tea and lemongrass-scented sanitizer and taking several new orders.
“He had mentioned quite a while ago that he makes hand sanitizer,” Frohman said. “I said, ‘If you need alcohol, just let us know.’ And, well, that time came.”