The Koloa Rum Co.’s retailer and tasting room at Kilohana Plantation in Puhi is now open, after being pressured to close down for eight months due to the pandemic.
“We’re very excited to get again and really feel a bit of regular,” mentioned Valerie Smith, retail and tasting room supervisor. “My crew is worked up, and some of them have moved on to do various things as a result of they wanted to. I received a superb crew and we’re able to deal with something.”
Like many Kaua‘i companies that closed, Koloa Rum Co. additionally took an enormous hit.
“Within the very starting, all our gross sales had been in Hawai‘i. We really feel like mainly, we’re the rum of Hawai‘i, and we had 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 general.
“So when COVID hit and every little thing shut down, that went away. We mainly misplaced almost all of it. Though our merchandise had been nonetheless offered within the grocery shops, Costco, these sorts of locations, there have been no guests, and native individuals had been furloughed and laid off, so the enterprise simply dropped,” Gunter mentioned.
The corporate misplaced 95% to 98% of income gross sales they had been producing earlier than COVID-19, however they had been fortunate to produce other avenues to depend on.
“The one factor that saved us going was two issues,” Gunter mentioned. “One is through the years we put ourselves in good monetary place, and likewise our mainland enterprise and worldwide enterprise really 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 means 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 workers, together with Val,” Gunter mentioned. “Again then we had no concept when the state was going to reopen once more. Since then we have now been working on a bare-bones crew. We simply received a couple of workers 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 crew watched the information rigorously 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 crew 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 had been open, so we opened on Nov. 3. On that day we received 30 guests and nearly 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 title 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 means of all of the export laws and every little thing. We’re prepared to do that,” Gunter mentioned.
In addition to ready for the Kilohana Safari Rum tour to start throughout 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 will probably be constructed within the coronary heart of Koloa throughout the subsequent six months, and hopes to maintain his rum pure and solely made with locally-grown elements whereas giving again to Kaua‘i’s group.
Throughout 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 individuals had been usually shopping for it from elsewhere,” Gunter mentioned. “So we had a finances 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 accordance 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 an enormous revenue-generator for us however we felt it was one thing we wanted to do, one thing we must always do to assist out our group. “
One other new product is Koloa Rum Co.’s Kauai Cacao (chocolate), which is coveted by chocolate lovers and could be tasted of their tasting from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.