Blackfish Distillery among more than 100 small businesses to receive checks

On the list to receive $1,300 checks from the Department of Commerce and King County via the city of Auburn are more than 100 businesses, some with established Auburn names like Robin’s Barber Shop and Gosanko Chocolates.

Other local recipents include Scamp Brewing, Citi Nails, Dollar Latino, Ena’Vative Hair Studio, Fast Signs, First Impressions Hair Design, Garcia’s Restaurant and Ginger Teriyaki.

Local business owners are fighting for life and limb in the grip of COVID-19.

“It’s a big deal,” said an appreciative Mike Gifford, owner of Blackfish Distillery on 37th Street Northwest, of that financial help. “It’s going to be a huge help for us.”

The checks were printed Monday, said Doug Lein, economic development director for the city of Auburn.

In stark terms, Blackfish has suffered a near total interruption of wholesale sales to restaurants and other customers.

“We have been in business for nearly seven years, and we are not used to this kind of business interruption, where everything is turned off,” Gifford said.”We’ve got a few restaurants that are working with us, but most restaurants are just staggering along right now and living with the inventory they have.”

To keep the company’s head above water, Gifford said, he registered with the Food and Drug Administration to convert his spirit-making equipment to the manufacturing of hand sanitizer.

At first, Blackfish supplied sanitizer only to first responders and essential businesses. Fire departments bought from them, Medic One, the United States Navy, the state Department of Transportation, the Departmentof Health and Human Services, and even the Pierce County Utility Department.

That kept the company — and Blackfish’s one in-plant employee at present — busy for a while.

But now, with the supply chain awash in hand sanitizer, the company is phasing out.

“It wasn’t really a money maker for us because, essentially, we converted $300 worth of vodka into $40 worth of hand sanitizer. We have not been getting rich off it, but we really felt like we were contributing to the community,” Gifford said.

“Personally, I’d rather be making whiskey,” Gifford laughed.

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