Du Nord Craft Spirits, which had already switched to making hand sanitizer after COVID-19 orders shut down tasting rooms, is now adding food and supplies donation center to its menu.
One of the few black-owned distilleries in the country, the Longfellow business, like many others in the neighborhood, was damaged early last Friday during riots after the death of George Floyd.
Several fires were set inside the Minneapolis distillery’s warehouse.
“The spot of the fire has now been converted into a community asset,” said owner Chris Montana. “There’s so much life in that space right now.”
Across the Twin Cities metro area, many small businesses — including those that have been damaged in recent riots after the killing of George Floyd — have started to collect and distribute food and other essential items to communities where stores may have been shut down due to vandalism or boarded up out of precaution.
Du Nord, which is located just a few blocks south of the police’s Third Precinct that was the epicenter of the riots last week, had at first helped store overflow donations from a drive organized by eatery Pimento Jamaican Kitchen. But after Montana noticed some residents had begun to start a donation campaign in a nearby parking lot, he decided the cleaned-out warehouse could become the site of its own donation drive.
“Why not?” he said. “We are in a position that we could do it. We can’t do anything else.”
Now the entire distillery, including the undamaged cocktail room, which is being used as a volunteer lounge, has been transformed with pallets of supplies and the constant buzz of activity since the drop-off and pickup drive began this week.
“It looks like a beehive in there,” Montana said.
Molly Hoskin, founder of Samadhi Yoga Mpls, rode her bike down Lake Street on Saturday to take stock of how riots had left numerous businesses along the corridor destroyed.
“With COVID going on, it already was a tough situation with food,” she said. “Everything was closed or destroyed, and I was just thinking, ‘What are folks going to do?’”
The Longfellow part of south Minneapolis and about eight other neighborhoods have nearly become a food desert in the wake of large grocery chains and small markets being damaged. As of Wednesday, more than 360 businesses across the Twin Cities had been vandalized, looted or had doors and windows smashed, according to a Star Tribune database.
Samadhi’s studio is on S. 27th Avenue in the Ivy Arts Building, which suffered damage to its front entrance and second floor. Hoskin created a Facebook event Saturday night to collect supplies for residents on the front lawn of the building. The community response the next day was overwhelming, she said.
Deliveries were nonstop, with an estimated 500 bags of groceries donated and mountains of other supplies, she said.
“It took up the whole lawn. … We ended up having to reallocate some stuff to other donation sites,” Hoskin said.
Many businesses in the Twin Cities have already had to make significant changes to their services or products as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, and the recent riots have made trying to stabilize even more complicated.
“It’s been hard,” said Hoskin, who started her studio last year to try to provide clients with an inclusive space to practice yoga.
At Du Nord, the fires and resulting water damage from the sprinklers caused about $100,000 worth of damage to the distillery’s inventory and equipment. The repair costs could end up being a lot more due to delayed future production, Montana said.
While figuring out the future of his own business, Montana is keeping his eye on helping the community. In addition to the collection of food and hygiene products, Du Nord has also started a fund to help other businesses that may not have insurance to rebuild. The fund has already raised close to $250,000. Though not exclusive, the fund is targeted to help minority-owned businesses.
“I ask myself, would this be worth it?” said Montana, referring to the damage and rebuilding that will need to happen for Du Nord and other businesses in the community. “If it meant that we can plant a flag in the moment, and tell our kids that this is when there was change, yes, it would.”