The Quakes and Wells Fargo are humbled and inspired by the amazing work of our frontline communities and neighbors in this time of crisis. Each week, we’ll be featuring and highlighting the work of one fantastic neighborhood hero, showcasing the great work they are doing and the organizations our community can rally around.
Eric Roberts began distilling at home as a hobby while working full time in the tech industry. It wasn’t long before he found he had a real passion and skill for it. After sharing his beverages with close friends and family, he decided to open his own distillery. In 2015, South Bay Spirits was founded, and is the only distillery in San Jose crafting their own vodkas, whiskeys and spirits.
South Bay Spirits is a family owned and operated business. When COVID first struck the Bay Area, many local small businesses like South Bay Spirits were immediately impacted.
“It was a culture shock for everyone,” says Eric. “We stopped everything -- closed our doors."
Their in-person business was forced into hiatus, which also prevented them from renting out their facilities as a venue space. Online sales became their primary source of business.
Since the FDA granted permission for distilleries to use their resources to make hand sanitizer, Eric and his team found a way they could help their community and keep themselves busy during a difficult time.
The distillery had a substantial amount of ethanol, a key ingredient in liquor, and also a main ingredient in sanitizers. The process to make hand sanitizer was only a few steps further than their standard procedure for producing vodka.
Eric and his team at South Bay Spirits were able to make large batches of hand sanitizer and donate them to frontline staff including medical workers, grocery store workers and mail deliverers.
So far they have donated almost 150 gallons of hand sanitizer to essential workers. “I wanted to take care of the people that take care of me,” says Eric.
But COVID-19 was not the only hurdle that South Bay Spirits has faced in 2020.
On March 3, 2020, Eric’s nephew Maurice, event coordinator at South Bay Spirits, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. This was less than two weeks before they were forced to shut down due to COVID. Maurice Dillard was only 28 years old.
Though the past few months have been very challenging, Eric and his family have been taking it one day at a time. Focusing on the business has been a way for them to stay connected, centered and motivated.
Eric says the memory of his nephew gives him the drive to keep moving.
South Bay Spirits is doing just that, as they have begun expanding their business into a tasting room, tap room and restaurant all in one place. To learn more about South Bay Spirits, visit their website here.