Local businesses help Lansing Fire Department


Thornton Distillery and NB Coatings donate critical supplies

by Carrie Steinweg

LANSING, Ill. (March 27, 2020) – Crisis can bring out the best in humanity. In Lansing and far beyond, neighbors are helping each other, and kindness is being shown in so many ways, including some we never imagined.

The Well pivots production

Lansing Deputy Fire Chief John Grady noticed that some distilleries in Indiana had shifted their production from alcohol to hand sanitizer to help with the rising demand for the product. “I reached out to Andy [Howell] at The Well last week, and he said they’d be more than willing to supply the department with some hand sanitizer,” said Grady. “On Tuesday I went out and picked up three gallons.”

Lansing Deputy Fire Chief John Grady picks up half-gallons of hand sanitizer produced at Thornton Distilling Co. in Thornton. The hand sanitizer is being provided to area fire and police departments, hospitals, and senior living facilities free of charge. (Photo: Andrew Howell)

The Well, located in Thornton is a tasting room and restaurant attached to the Thornton Distilling Co. When Illinois Governor JB Pritzker ordered the recent closure of all dine-in restaurants and bars, co-owners Andrew Howell and Jake Weiss had no choice but to furlough their staff and close. But Howell and head distiller Ari Klafter realized the opportunity was there to fill a need in the community.

“Since then we’ve pivoted to producing hand sanitizer, and we’re doing what we can to help the community. We’re just trying to get through this, and we look forward to opening back up and hiring everyone back,” said Howell. “It was hard to let everyone go. They’re like family.”

Head distiller Ari Klafter (left) and owner Andrew Howell are now producing hand sanitizer for first responders and others. (Photo: Carrie Steinweg)

Since the main ingredient in hand sanitizer is alcohol, Howell and Klafter were able to use their high-proof spirits and easily shift their production. More supplies are on order that will enable them to dramatically increase production and donate the product to first responders and high-risk seniors. Lansing native Nigel Dennis donated his time and supplies to design and create labels for the hand sanitizer bottles.

Howell said he gets more calls each day with requests from area police and fire departments, hospitals and senior care centers. Ten suburban fire departments have picked up hand sanitizer so far.

“With a lot of our supplies we’re having trouble getting them, just like everyone else,” said Grady. “The supply chain is really drying up.” The Lansing Fire Department will use The Well’s hand sanitizer to keep ambulances and living quarters at the stations stocked.

NB Coatings gives up their masks

Grady added that NB Coatings in Lansing, a manufacturer of automotive coatings and plastics, also donated a high-demand item that the department was in need of—N95 masks. Grady was in touch with the company when he realized the department would have a hard time replenishing their supply. NB Coatings made a large number of masks available to Lansing’s first responders.

“Then they called back when they decided to shut down the facility for the stay-at-home order, and they decided to donate their whole stock of masks,” said Grady. It was enough to supply Lansing and neighboring departments as well. “We felt comfortable with our stock and were able to pass some on to eight other departments in our division,” he added.

Click to visit The Well’s Go Fund Me page

Ways to help The Well

While The Well is closed, a Go Fund Me Page has been established to aid employees who are now without an income. Starting Friday they’ll have bottles of their spirits available for pick-up. Bottles of gin are $32 and pecan whiskey is $40 a bottle. Gift sets that include two Glencairn glasses will also be available for sale—$55 for the gin gift set and $60 for the whiskey gift set. Hours will be 2:00–7:00pm daily. Howell said they’ll practice social distancing, only allowing five people in at a time and placing markings on the floor to keep people at least six feet apart. Curbside pick-up can also be requested by calling 708-877-6222.