Note: This blog was written pre-covid and has not been edited to reflect the current state of affairs.
I am pretty pumped to say that we are growing and forming a strong solid foundation. The last three years of production (yep, we hit our 3 year production anniversary) have been a hellacious learning curve for us, employees, contractors, growers, and pretty much everyone involved. I’m not going to lie, there were times where things were paper-thin fragile, and it was scary. It feels like it has been a decade. Here’s the thing though, we didn’t do this alone. You probably already know about our stellar employees Troy and Corwin, I could (and probably will) write an entire blog on these two. The help I want to write about now though, is the stuff that is behind the scene, done quietly, frequently, and out of the goodness of their heart without compensation. Here’s a list of some of those unsung heroes, buy them a drink or at least give them a high five next time you see them, they certainly deserve it.
“Yoda of all things Distillery” John Mckee
This guy is my lifeline and one smart fucker. He is owner and operator of Headframe Spirits in Butte MT. I was just lucky enough to have this guy answer a rouge desperate e-mail of mine several years ago, and even luckier for me? He keeps answering them. He has fielded questions on everything from what type of valve to use for greater control on a dephlegmator to how to work with your spouse every day without becoming homicidal. Truly one of the greatest resources in our toolbox and instrumental to any and all of our success.
“House Engineers” Mr. Bill and Stocky Stockhausen
Geeze, where do I even start with these two, they have been so integral to the process from even before day 1 and we were just lucky enough to meet them by chance. To sum it up, they have nearly done it all… fixing pretty much everything mechanical and improving the stuff that just sucked to begin with. This is second only to the moral support they provided and continue to provide. Pure and simple, we could have not opened Ethanology without their support, guidance and 100+hr work weeks prior to our grand opening.
“Contingent Employee and Favorite Doggo Uncle” Logan Thomas
It’s rare to find someone universally dependable. Logan started here as a customer, continues as a contingent (saves our ass when we are short handed) employee, and has become family. He is quite literally always willing to lend a helping hand, whether it be with dishes, barrel mobilization, or showing some love to Ethanology’s hardest working 4-legged members.
“Chief of Muscle” Jarrett Hale
What a stand-up dude we have here. First off, out of the goodness of his heart this guy shows up nearly every single Tuesday mash to help us haul out grain bins, taking time out of his own schedule solely to help us. I can’t begin to explain how generous this is, and how thankful I am. Secondly, he comes packaged with one of my favorite women, Caitlin, who frequently entertains Sofi and Mabel on long days.
“Custom Fab and Maintenance” Kyle Lalone
Kyle has pretty much been helping us with small disasters from the beginning. He has fabricated, re-fabricated and just generally fixed countless things through his welding and carpentry skills. He and his wife (who he met at the distillery) have become lifelong friends and he continues to help us with our never-ending list of 20-minute jobs by providing borrowed tools, time, and expertise.
“Master of Perfect Timing” Andrew Broadus
Andrew has uncanny timing when showing up at the distillery. It’s almost as if he has built-in struggle radar. He has managed to show up probably on a dozen occasions just as we realize we need an extra set of hands for lifting/balancing/stabilizing etc. He has always been willing to help with these tasks, and as a bonus lend his opinion on cocktail development.
“Purveyor of Blood Sugar” Jan Toscano
This delightful woman has routinely showed up with hugs and baked goods for years now. She has kept myself and my staff fed during some of our busiest days. Her cinnamon rolls are the stuff of legend, and so is her kindness.
“Savior of Auto Logistics” Joe Fischer
I feel genuinely bad for everyone out there with a crap neighbor. Mine is truly terrific. This guy has been an integral part of supporting our mission from the beginning. What are the chances that our neighbor happens to be the premier provider of insurance geared specifically for the complex needs of distilleries? I’d say we got lucky, but if you are familiar with the term “God wink”… I’m going to go out on a limb and say luck had nothing to do with it. This guy is also good enough to allow for overflow parking in his lot next door, something which has truly made a difference in the success of our business and the positive experience of our customers.
“Captain of Pyrotechnics”
Dan keeps the fires stoked, literally. Nights at Ethanology can get chilly and this guy keeps us nice and toasty by regularly cutting, splitting, delivering, and stacking wood for our fire places. In addition to this, he brings a fantastic attitude and light heartedness that warms our souls too.
Ethanology has always been greater than the sum of its parts, thanks in large part to those mentioned, as well as countless others who have showed us kindness and generosity along the way. It takes a lot to make a distillery, and more importantly it takes a lot of special people to make it worth having in the first place.
Big big thanks.
To begin, I would just like to say that I am truly sorry for not being a better ally, for not seeking to understand, and for turning my head when things got uncomfortable. For staying silent.
It wasn’t long ago that I found myself firmly rooted in the “all lives matter” camp. I remember when the black lives matter campaign first began, thinking repeatedly to myself… wait, isn’t this just adding to the division? Now, it is my absolute privilege to sit here and write this blog and put it on record just how wrong I was. First, I want to change the word “privilege” to the phrase “I am grateful for” (hopefully this can help us white folk relate a little easier.) I am grateful that I have not just one, but multiple safe spaces to be writing this blog from. I am grateful I know my local police force will protect and aid me in my daily life. I am grateful I have money to buy a computer so I can express my feelings. I am grateful I had a safe and funded public school with a strong English program that taught me to read and write effectively. I am thankful that this education allowed me to get into a college where I could attempt to move up the socioeconomic ladder. I am grateful I had loans available to me (and I had people to guide me to them) to go to college and start this business. Sound familiar? It should if you are a middle to upper class white person.
The thing is, privilege is just the stuff that non-minorities consider normal things to be thankful for in their everyday lives. The truth is, that minorities still don’t have access to these same privileges, because of systemic failures in our economy, our culture, and our laws (and our unwillingness to uphold those laws.) That is why, yes, all lives matter, but right now we need to be talking specifically why black lives matter. We need to start the conversation. The key to solving any problem is to first admit there is one, and second to concentrate on the problem itself (not the periphery). I don’t have all the answers, and as a white person, I can’t even fully understand… maybe ever, and that’s okay, but I, we have to keep trying.
Ethanology has taken a public stance on the black lives matter movement, and frankly, we are disappointed to see that a lot have chosen to stay silent. The banality of evil is something that we all should be considering heavily in our current circumstances. American society has been complicit in the silence for too long. The business woman in me says it isn’t appropriate for a business to be getting involved in politics. The woman in me says fuck that, racism is not political, it is every American’s duty to stand up for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, for everyone. I did not open my own business to behave like a corporate cog in the wheel. Am I scared I might lose patrons? Absolutely. Every business is fragile right now because of COVID-19, but I am certain I would rather lose some customers than die of the shame and guilt of telling my grandchildren I stood by and said nothing, while people were being murdered in the street.
As a business owner who knows real people and businesses hurt by the rioting and looting happening, I don’t condone this behavior. I do think I understand it though. If someone systematically murdered my husband in the street because of his skin color… my rage would have no ceiling. Angry people do bad things sometimes, we are all guilty of this because anger makes us impulsive. More importantly, the riots would not be happening if there wasn’t anything to be angry about in the first place. I think if we all try to meet this with more compassion, we can start to heal. We need to stay focused on the real problem.
Don’t stay silent. Today is an excellent day to be brave, find your voice. This impacts all of America, even Northern Michigan.
-Geri & Nick
This blog is our journey. Distilled.