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Columbia distillery serves community in new way during coronavirus pandemic


COLUMBIA, Mo. — It’s 10 a.m., six hours before DogMaster Distillery would normally open its doors to customers, and owner Van Hawxby is fielding dozens of new orders while sitting among a myriad of plastic bottles in the tasting room. 

With laptops open, Hawxby converses with his business partner to schedule out the day: What orders have come in and take priority? Who among their six part-time employees can they call to come in? 

DogMaster Distillery owner Van Hawxby predicts he’s already produced 500 gallons of hand sanitizer in just one week. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

But it’s not any of the wide variety of spirits DogMaster produces that has Hawxby’s undivided attention Wednesday morning. The orders streaming in are for a new concoction: hand sanitizer. 

DogMaster, like many other breweries and distilleries across the country, has adapted to life during a global pandemic and is serving its community in a different manner. 

Hawxby was first contacted by the Columbia Police Department, inquiring if the distillery had the capacity to produce hand sanitizer. And from there word has spread — from the city and health department to across Central Missouri — as the coronavirus crisis continues, Hawxby said. 

“We have really gotten connected with the community. We’ve seen a lot of people who have never even heard of us before,” Hawxby told The Missouri Times. “It’s really refreshing that people see us now as a community partner and a community helper. It’s really been energizing, honestly.” 

Hawxby predicts he’s already produced 500 gallons of hand sanitizer in just one week — and the requests rolling in have totaled at least that amount already. 

The process involves combining high-proof alcohol (something the distillery has outsourced) and a gel (such as glycerine) in plastic buckets, DogMaster’s stainless steel tanks silently standing sentry in the background. The final product has to be at least 70 percent alcohol. 

DogMaster Distillery has lined up an array of individual-sized containers of hand sanitizer for customers to purchase in its tasting room from 4-7 p.m. (THE MISSOURI TIMES/KAITLYN SCHALLHORN)

With Columbia under a stay at home order, DogMaster Distillery has seen the ripple effect as bars and restaurants shutter. Not only has the distillery postponed some of its production processes to focus on hand sanitizer, but it’s also lost revenue as its wholesale business is essentially depleted for now. 

“We’re out of business. We can’t do anything. There’s nothing essential going on here outside of the hand sanitizer,” Hawxby said. 

Hawxby is expecting another shipment of raw materials to arrive within the next few days so he can ramp up the production of hand sanitizer. 

In the meantime, Hawxby asks those who wish to purchase large quantities of hand sanitizer to reach out via email ( with the subject line “sanitizer” and the body containing contact information and quantity needed. But for those who want to purchase individual-sized containers — creatively packaged in colorful water bottles or travel-sized plastic containers donated by a local veterinarian — the distillery is open from 4-7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday at 210 St. James Street in Columbia. 

At least 356 Missourians have tested positive for COVID-19, and eight people have died. A state of emergency was declared on March 13. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.