Gervasi Vineyard hand sanitizer

Distillery switches from making alcohol to hand sanitizer

On the 10-year anniversary date of first opening, Gervasi Vineyard instead had to close its doors after Gov. Mike DeWine ordered all restaurants and bars closed because of the COVID-19 outbreak. The news was devastating to general manager Scott Swaldo who ditched his month-long anniversary celebration plans and focused on finding ways to keep the business afloat and employees working.

He found it when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a few days later it was loosening restrictions on sanitizer manufacturing. That meant the company’s distillery could switch from making spirits to the much needed hand sanitizer. It also meant Swaldo could hire back some staff and give back to the community. The first 500 gallons were donated to local hospitals and first responders like fire and emergency crews. Gervasi Vineyards, a Stark County Farm Bureau member, also donated gloves to the Stark County Emergency Management Agency for distribution to local health care facilities. 

“March 16 is seared in my memory forever. It was the date of our anniversary and instead of celebrating we were in crisis management,” Swaldo said. “This is a tough time for us but it doesn’t mean you don’t give back. We have always been a very charitable company and will continue to be.”

Ohio-based companies and local partners donated supplies for the first batch of hand sanitizer: Berlin Packaging (discounted bottles), Label Aid (labels), ingredients for the alcohol including Swartz Farm (corn), Hartville Elevator (milling), Lallamand (yeast) and Berandi’s (boxes).

Manufacturers across Ohio, including many other distilleries, also have helped in the effort to battle the coronavirus — from making hand sanitizers and personal protective equipment to creating necessary components for COVID-19 testing.

Gervasi Vineyards later produced hand sanitizer for consumers to purchase before resuming manufacturing of its alcohol in May. A total of 2,500 gallons of hand sanitizer were produced.

“With us being the only distillery in the area, we were happy to be able to do something very purposeful. It was a quick learning curve but we were able to fulfill an urgent need,” Swaldo said.

Photos courtesy Gervasi Vineyard