A Year in Review: Looking Back on the Weirdest Year Yet
Written by Amanda Boroughs, Marketing & Events Manager, Tenth Ward Distilling Company
It was supposed to be our year. Like many other small businesses, we had big aspirations for 2020. We planned on surpassing and crushing all of our 2019 numbers. But COVID-19 decided to rear its ugly head and made us shift gears a bit. I’m pretty sure you’ve heard the term “pivot” about a million times. And even though the term just seems so unoriginal now, it is true. At every possible turn, and with every possible curve ball thrown our way, we’ve had to pivot our business practices, expectations and goals to stay afloat. Even though 2020 is not what we expected it to be, we’ve grown as a company and found out we’re stronger than we ever thought possible.
Online Ordering and Curbside Pickup (and Delivery!)
Once we received the first directive from our Governor that businesses must close down back in March, we immediately sprung to action. Lucky for us, as an alcohol manufacturer we are considered an essential business. That means we never had to close down completely. Since guests were no longer able to grace our bar with their presence, we came up with an online ordering platform instead. That’s also when we introduced easy curbside pickup and local delivery. We all pitched in for deliveries. Our own founder even packed her Prius to hand-deliver orders quite regularly. It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it. And our dedicated customers rose to the occasion and supported us with weekly pickups and deliveries. Big thanks to you guys! You helped us keep the lights on and our staff paid!
We soon decided to expand our cocktail offerings. Now that customers weren’t able to stop in the Cocktail Lab to have a drink, we began offering cocktails to go, cocktail kits, bottle bundles and event spirit tasting flights to go to provide some variety. A little something for everybody. Although now we are no longer offering delivery, we’re still offering in-store and curbside pickup, and should be offering it throughout 2021. Hopefully forever!
The same week that shut-down orders went into effect, we produced a small run of hand sanitizer. Those bottles were then donated to over two dozen bars, restaurants, breweries, and wineries throughout Frederick county to ensure they could stay safe and healthy as they too switched to delivery and to go orders. As other distilleries began to ramp up hand sanitizer production, we switched our production to surface disinfectant – another woefully scarce product in the early days of the pandemic. We were able to produce more than 400 gallons of surface disinfectant thanks to donations from numerous wineries, breweries, distributors, and an 80,000 lb donation of molasses from Domino in Baltimore.
Making the Cocktail Lab Safe
With COVID-19 came increased safety protocols and procedures. We sadly had to knock our bar capacity from 100 to 50. And we made sure our indoor patrons were safe by moving tables six feet apart and set for only six guests or fewer. We obsessively sanitized after each patron, including on our newly built patio seating area. Staff members were required to wear masks at all times, wash their hands even more often than usual, and practice social distancing when not at work to help keep our employees and customers safe.
These safety measures now feel like second nature. At first wearing a mask from morning until night felt like such an inconvenience, but now it’s just what we do. We don’t even have to think about it anymore. Hey, if it’s going to help stay open and keep our staff and customers safe, we’re all in.
Events During 2020
To everyone who tried to plan an event in 2020… I’m. So. Sorry! Approximately 90% of our 2020 events had to be postponed to 2021 or even 2022. And as the Events Manager here at Tenth Ward, I’ve had the unhappy task of having to assist our event clients – many of them brides and grooms excited for their 2020 nuptials – with moving their much awaited events to a later date. And as a 2020 bride-to-be herself, I can certainly empathize with everyone who’s had to cancel or postpone their much anticipated 2020 event. And this is why our wedding and event clients are the best: Everyone was so understanding about postponing or downsizing their event to comply with COVID-19 restrictions. You guys are the real MVPs.
In an attempt to hold on to some 2020 marital bliss, we hosted not one, but two Pop-Up Wedding Days for nine lucky couples and their small groups of close family and friends. Each couple got to enjoy a small ceremony and reception with all the bells and whistles included. We had music by Shew-sical Entertainment and Benefactor Events, delicious confections from Two Sweet and Angelcakes (which is now unfortunately closed), beautiful floral arrangements from Sweet Blossoms and Wildflower Weddings, stunning hair and makeup by the one and only JKW Beauty, gorgeous photography from A&M Photography and Moy Dumadag Photography, videography from Anchor Pictures and officiating by Norman Ross and Kristen McKernon. This was by far the most fun (and exhausting) event I’ve ever executed. Each couple was so different and unique, and yet Tenth Ward was the perfect venue for them all. Click here to read some testimonials from our awesome wedding clients.
In another attempt to keep some 2020 wedding normalcy, we released a Micro Wedding package as well. It’s just a slightly abbreviated, and less expensive, version of our regular wedding package, but it’s the perfect option of anyone looking for something slightly smaller and simple. It includes a six hour rental for ceremony and reception for up to 75 guests. And lucky for you, we’re still offering this package throughout 2021! Contact us here to request more information.
Product Releases in 2020
Canned Cocktails were another major breakthrough for us this year. We knew we always wanted to have a line of signature, ready-to-drink canned cocktails, but when COVID-19 reared its ugly mug, we knew we had to push up their release. And boy we’re we glad we did. The canned cocktails have been an absolute hit. They’re conveniently sold in 4-packs for just $16, so they’re super easy to pick up and take home or to your next socially-distanced gathering. As of now we have two flavors to choose from: Corpse Reviver No. 10 and our Smoked Whiskey Sour. The Corpse Reviver is made with our Genever Inspired Gin, Absinthe Nouvelle, chai vanilla bean syrup, lemon and lavender bitters. It’s made with Maryland’s first and only REAL absinthe. That’s right, it’s real. Don’t believe me? Well it looks like you’ve got some research to do. The Smoked Whiskey Sour is perfect for those smoky, savory, classic whiskey lovers. It’s made with our Smoked Corn Whiskey, lemon, honey, ginger and ancient bitters. The 4-packs can be picked up here at the Cocktail Lab or one of your local liquor stores in Maryland and DC.
Keep your eyes peeled for two new canned cocktail flavors coming out in 2021!
Bottle Club & Limited Releases
Luckily we were able to stick to a strict production schedule that ensured all our Bottle Club releases and limited one-time-only releases went off without a hitch. Just another reason to be a Bottle Club member: Consistent and creative booze to add to your collection. In fact, we increased our Bottle Club by 50% in 2020. Big thanks to our dedicated club members for the loyalty and support and a big thanks to our amazing production team for getting the job done!
And Everything Else in Between
Even though 2020 was not what we wanted it to be, we made it through to the other side. And that’s because we have an amazing team dedicated to their craft. Everyone chipped in, came in early, stayed late, picked up slack, threw out creative ideas, and just straight busted their asses every day. I consider myself lucky every day that I get to work side by side with these talented individuals. Well, and the free whiskey doesn’t hurt either.
We’re super proud of our fearless leader, Monica Pearce, who was accepted into the James Beard Foundation’s Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Program this year. Monica was one of the 20 business owners selected out of 300 applications from the food and beverage industry all over the nation. This year allowed for a lot of time for professional and personal development, so Monica was able to complete this training to help her become an even better business owner. The program addresses things like financial literacy, leadership, staff management, growth strategy, soliciting investors and more. Now ain’t she fancy?
This year our Absinthe Nouvelle brought us a gold at the New York International Spirits Festival and got us named the Maryland Absinthe Distillery of the Year. The Gin is In gave our Genever five stars and a double gold and our Honeyjack has brought in Gold, Silver and Bronze medals for the spirit and packaging design. You can find our spirits and cocktails in over 100 bars and restaurants and over 120 liquor stores cross Maryland and Washington, DC.
We’re looking forward to what 2021 has to come. We’ve got four amazing releases in store for our Bottle Club members. We’re excited to add two new canned cocktails to our collection. We’re whipping up four to five new one-time-only releases. Our lease is up at the stillhouse so we are moving to a larger production facility. And in July we are celebrating five years of business!
No matter what comes our way, 2020 taught us that we are adaptable, flexible, creative and resilient. Even though we’re not looking forward to any more curve balls, at least we know we can knock them out of the park.