The Koloa Rum Co.’s retailer and tasting room at Kilohana Plantation in Puhi is now open, after being compelled to close down for eight months due to the pandemic.
“We’re very excited to get again and really feel a little bit regular,” mentioned Valerie Smith, retail and tasting room supervisor. “My workforce is happy, and some of them have moved on to do various things as a result of they wanted to. I received a very good crew and we’re able to sort out something.”
Like many Kaua‘i companies that closed, Koloa Rum Co. additionally took a giant hit.
“Within the very starting, all our gross sales have been in Hawai‘i. We really feel like principally, we’re the rum of Hawai‘i, and we have been persevering with to develop our outside-distribution line in our wholesale enterprise,” mentioned Bob Gunter, president and CEO. “On the finish of 2019, our income from the state of Hawai‘i, together with the tasting room right here, amounted to about 73% of our income total.
“So when COVID hit and all the pieces shut down, that went away. We principally misplaced practically all of it. Though our merchandise have been nonetheless bought within the grocery shops, Costco, these sorts of locations, there have been no guests, and native folks have been furloughed and laid off, so the enterprise simply dropped,” Gunter mentioned.
The corporate misplaced 95% to 98% of income gross sales they have been producing earlier than COVID-19, however they have been fortunate to produce other avenues to depend on.
“The one factor that saved us going was two issues,” Gunter mentioned. “One is over time we put ourselves in good monetary place, and likewise our mainland enterprise and worldwide enterprise truly improved. It’s actually ironic as a result of, after the pandemic began, our mainland and worldwide distribution are up 50 to 60% since COVID-19. It enabled us to proceed to remain afloat.”
Koloa Rum Co. continued to function its distillery in Kalaheo by way of the pandemic as a result of they wished to construct their stock and attempt to tweak their enterprise whereas recovering from their losses.
“We furloughed 11 staff, together with Val,” Gunter mentioned. “Again then we had no concept when the state was going to reopen once more. Since then we now have been working on a bare-bones crew. We simply received just a few employees again from furlough, and we even received Val again in September when the governor was initially going to open transPacific.”
Gunter mentioned as he and his workforce watched the information fastidiously every day with uncertainty, and after they came upon the state pushed again the reopening of trans-Pacific journey date from September to Oct. 15, he and his workforce selected their very own reopening date whereas nonetheless contemplating all security pointers.
“We determined to reopen on Nov. 15,” Gunter mentioned. “However then we began noticing guests trickling in and calling us if we have been open, so we opened on Nov. 3. On that day we received 30 guests and virtually the identical quantity the following day.”
Earlier than COVID-19 closed its doorways, Koloa Rum Co. was coming into its merchandise in liquor contests across the nation, this improved their identify recognition and set the stage for the following step.
“Over the past 10 years we expanded our distribution to what’s now 28 states,” Gunter mentioned. “We even have a distributor in western Canada, in Japan, Australia and New Zealand, and we’re sending our first container of rum to an importer in Europe subsequent week.
“We been attempting to work by way of all of the export rules and all the pieces. We’re prepared to do that,” Gunter mentioned.
In addition to ready for the Kilohana Safari Rum tour to start inside the subsequent two months with Kilohana’s practice, Gunter mentioned they lastly made some progress with their very own locally-grown sugarcane in Koloa.
“We planted sugarcane final 12 months at our new Koloa distillery website throughout the ball park, and final week was the primary harvest of our natural sugar cane, with our second harvest earlier this week,” Gunter mentioned.
Gunter is hopeful that the brand new distillery shall be constructed within the coronary heart of Koloa inside the subsequent six months, and hopes to maintain his rum pure and solely made with locally-grown substances whereas giving again to Kaua‘i’s neighborhood.
Through the disaster, Koloa Rum Co. produced their new product line of hand sanitizers and at first gave them away to first responders solely.
“After some time, we started to promote it additionally as a result of folks have been usually shopping for it from some other place,” Gunter mentioned. “So we had a price range for it. They weren’t for revenue. We continued to donate, and we nonetheless promote a few of this and donate a few of this, too.”
In line with Gunter, their new hand-sanitizer product is fragrance-free, thought-about vegan, and he mentioned it feels actually clear.
“There are nonetheless a number of physician places of work and medical amenities that use these merchandise,” Gunter mentioned. “That was one thing that wasn’t a giant revenue-generator for us however we felt it was one thing we would have liked to do, one thing we should always do to assist out our neighborhood. “
One other new product is Koloa Rum Co.’s Kauai Cacao (chocolate), which is coveted by chocolate lovers and will be tasted of their tasting from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.